Skip to main content

Full text of "Good Luck To The Corpse - Max Murray (1951)"

See other formats


Max Murray 






























GOOD LUCK TO THE CORPSE 



Books by MAX MURRAY 

The Voice of the Corpse 
The King and the Corpse 
The Queen and the Corpse 
The Neat Little Corpse 
The Right Honorable Corpse 
Good Luck to the Corpse 



0«ott -dt(e& 

iro 




^ MAX MURRAY 


FARRAR, STRAUS AND YOUNG 


For 

MARION HAY 
With a hand across the sea 


Copyright 1951 by Max Murray 
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce 
this book, or portions thereof in any form. 
Printed in the U. S. A. by Hallmark-Hubner Press. 



GOOD LUCK TO THE CORPSE 




CHAPTER ONE 



£ had always known that he would meet Risa 


again. As abruptly as she had walked out of his life, she 


would return. 


The girl opposite him was not Risa; his mind hesi¬ 
tated, recalling her name. It was Whitecliffe, Penelope 
WhiteclifEe, a blonde girl, with a skin that the sun had 
turned to luminous bronze. Her eyes were not like Risa’s 
either. They were dark blue and quiet under straight 
brows, honest, reflecting her moods. He was not think¬ 
ing of her directly, but thinking how different she was 
from Risa. Risa would not have spoken as this girl had, 
because this girl said what was in her mind without 
any innate fear that she might betray some secrets that 
had become a part of her life. 

And yet he was wrong, Penelope Whitecliffe would 
have died rather than admit what was passing through 
her mind: that Julian Ashford was a nice name, that he 
was thin and brown, that the lines cut deeply in his 
cheeks must have been etched there by some tragic ex¬ 
perience; that there was hardly anybody, nobody she 


3 



had met, who was so unaffectedly attractive, who made 
no effort whatever to create an impression. 

She found herself explaining to him a problem that 
she had considered her own, even her unacknowledged 
fear. Later she was to be ashamed of herself, but not 
now. “It all looks wonderful here,** she said. “Every¬ 
body enters into a conspiracy to make it seem that 
people come here to forget their worries. But that*s not 
honest either. People bring their worries here because 
they can*t tolerate them any longer at home. Others 
here exploit them.'* 

He smiled a slow quiet protest. “Exploit worries? 
Surely that isn't a very profitable enterprise?** 

“But it is . . . it is when you create an hysteria of 
escape. You don't know the background, but I do. I live 
here. That makes it different.** 

They were talking in the drawing room of his suite 
in the Hotel Ruhl in Nice. Reluctantly impressed, he 
got up and walked to the windows of the oval room, 
high above the Promenade des Anglais. There was noth¬ 
ing sinister about the view. The water was blue and 
shining, all around the wide expanse of the bay. A 
speedboat was racing along close inshore, towing a girl 
on water skis. She was leaping and curving back and 
forth through the wake of the speedboat, and she 
looked wildly exultant. Farther out there were the 
sedate little sailboats, white triangles on blue water. 
From the Promenade below he could hear the insistent 
hooting and tooting of the horns of the taxis. He could 
see the horse carriages with their white canopies, passing 
on their way as if they were going to an antique fes- 


4 



tival. He could see the endless procession of idlers, some 
of them grave and some gay, some dressed in the wildest 
extravagance, some buttoned up and somber as if they 
were in mourning, some loitering and some bustling as 
if they had not yet learned that there was no hurry. 

He shook his head and turned back to her. “If this is 
a sinister place. Miss WhitecliflEe, the disguise is perfect. 
I chose it because it was safe.” 

“Safe?” 

“Of course, safe for young Tyler. It's a funny thing, 
I don't expect you to understand it; but this boy of 
mine has turned me into a coward.” He made a gesture 
of apology. “You see we've been together alone almost 
since he was born, and I've had to drag him up and 
down the world, till this.” He gestured to the hotel 
room. “This is the nearest thing to home that he can 
recall. You suggest that this is dangerous. I once carried 
him on my back from Burma to India through the 
jungles. We have been together in a lot of cities. This 
one we think is the safest.” 

She saw that he was affected by having to explain. 
“Must you go away and leave him?” 

“Yes,” he said. “I explained that. I have to go on an¬ 
other journey; it's long and exhausting and it might 
even be dangerous. Of course I want to take him with 
me because I want to share his excitement in all the 
new things there are in the world. But on the other 
hand I want him to realize that there are places where 
people live without eternally moving on, where he can 
stay put and make friends.” 

He could not help feeling that she was genuinely 

5 



distressed. “I can’t accept the responsibility for your 
little boy,” she said. have to leave Nice too often.” 

“Haven’t you rather missed the point?” he asked. 
“I’m not asking you to accept any responsibility. I’m 
employing your uncle.” 

“But you don’t even know him.” 

That was true too. It was also true that on this side 
of the world he did not know anybody, certainly no¬ 
body whom he could ask to take charge of a strange boy. 

When he found little Mr. WhitecliflEe, he considered 
himself lucky. Mr. WhitecliflEe had looked so exactly 
what he had claimed to be. A teacher who had found the 
full routine of a big school too much for him. He had 
come to Nice for a holiday and had stayed on with 
Penelope as a part-time tutor. His references had been 
excellent. 

“Are you trying to tell me there is something wrong 
with your uncle. Miss WhitecliflEe?” he asked slowly. 

“No, no, of course not. It isn’t like that at all . . . 
but—” 

“Yes?” 

“My uncle is really quite helpless,” she said flatly. 
“In a crisis he would lose his head completely.” 

“But why on earth should there be a crisis? Tyler will 
be staying here in this hotel, and your uncle will stay 
here with him to see that he does his homework and 
washes behind his ears. Any crisis in Tyler’s life would 
be on that level. During the day, of course, he will 
attend the children’s section of your school.” 

Penelope looked at him as if she suddenly realized she 


6 



was behaving unreasonably. “You think I*m trying to 
pass on my own troubles to you, don't you?” 

“Of course not, why should you?” 

She could not explain that he was the sort of man who 
invited that sort of feeble-mindedness. “I just wanted to 
make it clear that you don't know anything about me. 
... I mean about my uncle and me. You see, I . . .” 

He broke in. “Let me tell you what 1 do know about 
you.” He sat opposite her and looked at her in the 
characteristic appraising way he had. “1 wouldn't have 
been such a fool as not to try to find out something 
about you. Your father died a year ago and you in¬ 
herited his schools. You teach languages, and branches 
of your schools are located in most of the capitals of 
Western Europe and, of course, you have this little prep 
school here for the visitors' children. The principal 
school is here in Nice. Your father knew that he was 
doing something great as he tried to break down the 
barrier of tongues; to him it was the same as teaching 
a pioneer how to live on a strange territory. It was not 
his idea to make them scholars, but only to teach them 
to understand and not be frightened by their environ¬ 
ment.” He gave her a diffident smile. “You see I read 
about him. I went to the newspaper files and read about 
his death, and about how his glamorous daughter had 
taken up the torch, as it were. Now do you agree that I 
know about you?” 

She shook her head. “Not everything. They are trying 
to take the schools away from me.” A sense of indigna¬ 
tion gave speed to her voice. “I wouldn't sell, and they 
told me that I would lose them whether I sold them 

7 



or not. They were very nice and pretended that they 
were sure I was too inexperienced to make a success. 
That’s what they pretended, but it was not what they 
meant.” 

He nodded without conviction. “What makes you so 
sure?” 

“Not just one thing, lots of little things: students at 
the school, for instance. Some of them aren’t what they 
seem to be. They are paying their fees to be taught 
French, but they aren’t interested. Some of them know 
more already than they can possibly learn from the short 
courses we give,” she added defensively. “But, of course, 
you know our school never was intended to be like 
others. People come to us from all over the world. Their 
main objective is to learn enough French to get along 
in a strange country. They can’t afford the luxury of a 
long course. Some of them have escaped from places 
where their political views made it too dangerous to 
stay. They have to get money from somewhere. I sup¬ 
pose they can’t be too particular where it comes from.” 

“You think they are using your school as a sort of 
clearing house?” 

“Somebody may be, I think. My uncle says he’s sure 
of it.” 

“He should go to the police.” 

“He should, of course,” she agreed soberly, “but he’s 
very mysterious about it, even with me.” She gave a 
brief smile. “I think he would like to think he was in¬ 
volved in a sinister plot. All his life he has lived in 
boys’ boarding schools. He’s still like a boy himself. I 
suppose that’s why he gets on with them so well.” 


8 



“Who has been trying to buy you out. Miss White- 
cliffe?” He was only politely interested. 

“Raoul de Wollfe.“ She saw the name meant nothing 
to him and explained, “He and his wife have a villa up 
in the hills near St. Paul. It's a beautiful place and they 
have money enough to entertain most of the celebrities 
who come here. It's quite an honor to be invited." 

“He hardly sounds the sort of man who would cheat a 
girl out of her heritage," he suggested. 

She colored. “I did not say that he was trying to cheat 
me. He simply told me that he was determined to get it. 
I don’t like his calm assumption that he can take what 
he wants." 

“Most people get what they want, you know, if they 
can aflEord to pay the price for it," he said. 

“I'd die rather than let him have it." She stood before 
him as if it were he who had made the challenge. She 
looked very young and defenseless. 

He stood up too and smiled down at her. “I shouldn't 
take it too seriously if I were you. This De Wollfe of 
yours doesn't sound very sinister. This is probably just 
another whim of the rich. Most likely he's forgotten 
that you exist, or if he remembers it's to tell his friends 
of the young girl who defied him." Julian Ashford had 
begun with the idea of making light of her troubles and 
he ended thinking that most likely he was guessing at 
the truth. 

She was not convinced but she did look relieved and 
a little self-conscious. “I still say I can't be responsible 
for anything that may happen to your son," she said. 


9 



He laughed. “And I still say that I didn't ask you to 
be.“ 

He walked with her to the elevator and came back to 
stand by the circular windows again. He had been right; 
nothing could be more innocuous than this city that 
lived on holiday money of the hundreds of thousands 
who bought a few weeks of leisure and sun and sea, and 
then went back to work. Of course there were others, 
there always were: the too idle, the too wealthy and 
their parasites. But there were no more here than any¬ 
where else. And it was they who gave its color to the 
place. 

He saw the girl leave the hotel. He saw a young man 
get up from a table on the terrace, and the girl pause 
beside him, half reluctantly, Julian thought. She took a 
chair the young man drew out for her, and for a moment 
their heads were close together. His hair was as blond 
as hers, rather long and inclined to wave. He was tall 
and even from here he looked self-assured, more so than 
the girl who gave an impression of reluctance. 

Julian wondered idly what their relationship was, 
and if the young man had brought Penelope to the 
hotel and had waited below. This was a habit he had, 
to see two complete strangers together, to compare them 
and speculate about them. A bad habit; he shrugged it 
aside and went to finish his packing. 

His son's door was open and he looked in. The little 
boy's back was turned and he was bending over his bed. 
His head was lowered and his shoulders drooped de¬ 
jectedly. There was an open bag in front of him, one 
of the small canvas affaits that the airline companies 


10 



give away to their clients. His most precious possessions 
were spread out on the bed, items such as a cowboy gun 
and a battered hat, a pencil sharpener and a pair of 
roller skates and some colored chalks. 

‘Tacking, Tyler?*' 

“No, daddy." His voice was small and lifeless. “I was 
unpacking. I packed last night because I thought you'd 
change your mind and I'd be ready." Without looking 
up he continued to drop his possessions one by one on 
)the bed, as if spelling out his sorrow. 

Julian put a hand on his shoulder. “I know how you 
feel. But you see that it isn't possible, don't you?" 

Tyler shook his head without answering. 

“I won't be long, only a matter of weeks." 

The boy nodded. What was the use of trying to ex¬ 
plain that a week can be a year? 

“You like it here, don't you? And you like the school?" 

“I like Miss Whitecliffe, but she doesn't want to 
bother with me. I heard her say so. I suppose she thinks 
I'll be a nuisance, because I don't know anything about 
women either." 

Julian sat on the bed and stood Tyler facing him be¬ 
tween his knees. “No, Tyler, you're wrong. Miss White¬ 
cliffe did not say she couldn't bother with you. She said 
that she could not accept the responsibility, which is 
quite another matter. And that does not arise because 
you are nobody's responsibility but mine. You aren't 
afraid to stay here, are you?" 

The little boy considered that. “I'll be afraid that 
you'll get killed when I'm not with you," he said. 


11 



Julian stood up and said flatly, “Tyler, you mustn't 
even think such rubbish." 

“No, daddy, but I can't help it if I dream it, can I?" 

Julian went back to his own packing. This time the 
oil company was sending him to the Persian Gulf. There 
had been a time when he looked forward to these 
journeys, to the deserts and jungles. He had liked the 
men who worked in them, who pushed forward the 
industrial frontiers because it was in their blood. Almost 
since he could walk, Tyler had been going along with 
him, by ship, by train, by camel, by pony; all the time 
when he should have been at home with a nurSe. Now 
Julian was leaving him at a point when he was strange 
with other children, and knew nothing about women. If 
only Risa had been different. . . . He closed the case as 
if to close out her memory. 

He walked to the window again. Penelope and her 
companion were leaving their seats. They walked to a 
spectacular-looking car that was parked in the center of 
the Promenade. They got in and drifted gracefully into 
the traffic lanes. Idlers turned to watch them, but 
whether to look at the car or its occupants there was 
no way of knowing. Julian Ashford felt foolishly resent¬ 
ful. The girl had come to him to implant doubts in 
his ihind about her school. Now presumably she was 
prepared to leave it to take care of itself. 

But he was being unfair to Penelope. To be driven 
to the school by John Keeble, little as she liked him, 
was more sensible than to walk there. That, at least, was 
what she was telling herself. Also, it was a good deal 
more disturbing. 


12 



CHAPTER TWO 


ULIAN ASHFORD was due at the company’s ofl&ce 
for a last-minute conference. The Franco Consolidated 
Fuel Corporation occupied a building on the Prome¬ 
nade, a short way beyond the Negresco Hotel. The hotel 
doorman asked if he wanted a cab, but he said he pre¬ 
ferred to walk. Anybody on such a day would have 
made the same choice. This day was too beautiful to 
ignore. It was the aperitif hour, but then on a fine day 
in Nice any hour is the aperitif hour, or that is how it 
would seem. The colored umbrellas were out on the 
sidewalks, so were the vendors of colored spectacles, 
optimistic, because everybody was already wearing them. 
The carpet sellers were out. Oriental and vaguely fur¬ 
tive, some of them with goods under the carpets that 
were not nearly so respectable. But there was nothing 
particularly sinister about that. There are oriental rug 
hawkers in every resort in France. But they reminded 
Julian of Penelope's misgivings. It annoyed him that 
his mind insisted on reverting to what she had said. 
There was no need continually to reassure himself that 


13 



Tyler would be perfectly safe. He was rubbing shoulders 
with the most innocuous crowd of holiday makers on 
earth. Holiday makers. . . . 

He was of the very few who were not wearing sun¬ 
glasses. His eyes had accustomed themselves to the sun 
where it was far more violent. It had bleached his eyes 
to a clear gray-blue, and etched the lines at their corners 
that creased deeply when he smiled. It was not the 
Nicoise sun that had burned rather than browned his 
skin. His tan was permanent. He walked looking into 
the distance, and in his preoccupation was hardly aware 
of the people about him. He did not notice that women 
turned to watch him as he passed. 

He was thinking of the years that he had been alone 
with his son. He was thinking of Risa, of how he had 
met her when he was on leave in Australia, of how 
crazily infatuated he had been, and of how bitterly dis¬ 
illusioned she had been with the tropics when he took 
her home. She had not even tried to share his life. He 
thought how much she would have loved it here, every¬ 
thing would have suited her, the gilded idleness, the 
brief, shallow encounters and the stimulated excitement. 
She would have loved it because it was like her. That 
impression was so strong that when he had finished his 
conference he did not go back by the Promenade, but 
walked away from the sea to the Rue de France where 
the tramcars clatter and grind and the people trade and 
eat and gesticulate just as they do in any other provincial 
city in France, where the sidewalks are always too nar¬ 
row, and the housewives and their shopping combined 
are too broad. Here it was busily sensible and perma- 

14 



nent, and there were a great many healthy, uninhibited 
children. 

Of course it was safe. The greatest danger in Nice 
was that one would be run over by the fiendish cyclists 
who presumably are eternally training for the Grand 
Prix de France. 

Tyler was waiting for him in the suite. Julian had ex¬ 
pected little Mr. Whitecliffe to be there. 

Tyler explained, “He said to tell you, daddy, that he 
had some urgent business to attend to.” 

“Oh, he did, did he?” If Mr. Whitecliffe had urgent 
business while his employer was still in Nice to watch 
him, he might not be so reliable when his employer was 
a thousand miles away. “What business?” he asked. 

“It was mysterious business,” Tyler said simply. 

“Now listen, Tyler, schoolteachers and tutors don't 
have mysterious business. They look after little boys, so 
don't you try to make a drama out of this.” 

Tyler protested, “But, daddy, he said he had a letter 
that put a different complexion on everything. What do 
you think of that?” 

“I think it must have been an advertisement for sun 
tan, and he has gone out to buy a small bottle because 
he is a small man.” He laughed, not naturally. 

“No, it wasn't that. He telephoned to somebody and 
said, ‘I've got you where I want you,' in a funny voice.” 

Julian had experienced this sort of thing before. 
“Tyler,” he said, “I know that I've brought you up very 
badly. I know that I've let you look at too many bad 
movies and comics, but people do not say ‘I've got you 
where I want you,' not in real life, Tyler.” 


15 



Tyler said with some satisfaction^ “Mr. WhitecliflEe 
did.” 

And then Julian remembered what Penelope had said 
about her uncle, that he had lived so long with school¬ 
boys that he was like one himself. Yes, possibly Mr. 
WhitecliflEe might have said that. It was an uncomfort¬ 
able thought. ”Do you mean to say that he made these 
threats while you were in the room?” 

”No, daddy, I wasn’t exactly in the room, but I was 
listening.” 

“You had no right to listen.” 

“I couldn’t help it. He was talking in a loud voice 
that went up and down because he was excited. Truly, 
daddy. I think perhaps it’s just as well that I’m staying 
because if Mr. WhitecliflEe gets into trouble I’ll be here 
to take care of him. He did talk in a loud voice, but I 
think he was frightened.” 

“Nonsense.” Julian wished that he could put down the 
ridiculous feeling that this story was not entirely ro¬ 
mance. He knew that Tyler was capable of inventing it 
as an escape into unreality while they were separated. 
He was almost tempted to let him go on with the make- 
believe, because it would help to bridge the gap. Tyler 
would not be the lonely kid who was missing his father 
for the fibrst time. He would be some mysterious charac¬ 
ter on the side of the right who at the last dramatic 
moment would unmask the enemies of poor little Mr. 
WhitecliflEe and the Law. It would tide him over the 
j6rst few miserable days till he had adjusted himself to 
the separation. That he was sure was what was behind 
the story. 


16 



‘‘When did he say he would be back^ Tyler?” 

“He didn’t say. He wasn’t thinking about us, daddy. 
His hands were shaking at the thought of his enemies 
closing in on him.” 

Julian smiled. “I thought it was the other way round, 
and that he had got his enemies where he wanted them.” 

The boy thought of that. Real or unreal the picture 
was clear in his mind: “Mr. WhitecliflEe was alone and 
unarmed,” he said. “And very little, that’s why he was 
afraid.” 

Julian had no means of knowing whether or not he 
was serious. Even if this had been a game, young Tyler 
would have been just as serious as he was now. Nonethe¬ 
less, he was relieved when there was a discreet knock on 
the door and Mr. WhitecliflEe came in. The color of his 
cheeks may have been a little higher than Julian remem¬ 
bered when he interviewed him earlier, and he may 
have been a little more tense; but there was no marked 
change. 

“I’m most sorry that I was called away,” he said. 
“There was an urgent private matter that I had to 
attend to.” 

Julian had to choke down a sense of irritation. “I hope 
your private aflEairs are finally in order,” he said. 

“Not entirely, I’m afraid. I have a final appointment 
at three. The matter will be settled finally then.” 

I see. 

“It will occupy no more than half an hour, I assure 
you, Mr. Ashford,” he said. 


Julian left the hotel early. The plane did not leave 

17 



till four, but he had several things to do on the way to 
the airport. Tyler stood beside him waiting for the bags 
to be stowed into the taxi. He was silent and Julian 
knew that he could not trust himself to speak. He wished 
that the porters would hurry. 

“Well, Tyler, I must be off. I'll be back before you 
realize that I've gone." 

“Yes, daddy." 

He ran his hand through his son's blond hair, briefly, 
as he always did at bedtime. “Goodbye, Tyler." 

“ 'Bye." 

He glanced back through the window. The little boy 
standing beside the tall pillars looked small and forlorn. 
The tutor was fidgeting in the background. Julian's im¬ 
pression was that Mr. Whitecliffe was impatient to see 
the last of him. 

In spite of the time he had allowed himself, the pas¬ 
sengers were filing through the gates as he arrived, and 
the porters rushed for his bags. An official took his pass¬ 
port, raised his die as if to stamp it, then lifted his eyes 
to look curiously at its owner. From Julian his eyes 
passed to two men standing by the gate. He nodded to 
them and they came to the counter and stood one on 
either side of him. One of them took the passport and 
put it in his pocket. 

“Mr. Julian Ashford?" 

“Yes." 

“We should like a word with you." 

“I'm sorry, I've no time." 

“We are police officers, Mr. Ashford.** 


18 



“I can’t help that, I have a plane to catch.” 

As if in denial the gates shut with a little emphatic 
click. 

He looked from one to the other in amazement. “Do I 
understand that you are trying to stop me from getting 
on that plane?” 

“Those are our instructions.” 

He saw that the porters were moving his bziggage back 
to the taxi. The airline clerks were watching him with 
impassive curiosity, waiting to see what he was going to 
do next, waiting to see if he was going to lose his head. 
It was quite obvious that he was not to travel by the 
plane waiting on the tarmac. It was not the first time 
official interference had preventing him from traveling. 
In the modern world it had become a commonplace. He 
had learned to save his breath. He wondered which par¬ 
ticular footling regulation he had neglected this time. 

“What other instructions have you?” 

“We are to take you back to Nice, monsieur.” 

“Why?” 

One of the men had rather furtively taken a notebook 
from his pocket and had stepped into the background. 
The other acted as questioner. 

“We thought you might know the answer to that.” 

“It might be as well to assume that when I ask you a 
question I do not know the answer,” Julian said curtly. 

“You don't even know that there has been murder?” 
The man's manner was patiently sceptical. 

“I know there have been hundreds of murders. Is that 
any reason why you should try to stop me from catching 
my plane?” 


19 



“You are not catching any plane till you have an¬ 
swered our questions. The murder I am referring to 
took place in Nice less than an hour ago. As a result of 
what is known, we were reached by telephone and in¬ 
structed to prevent you from leaving the country.” 

“I see, and if I tell you that I have not the slightest 
idea of what you are talking about, you will not believe 
me, of course?” 

“We will make a note of what you say. You have a 
son, I believe?” 

Julian reached out a hand and gripped the counter 
rail. He was unable to speak. The police officer said with 
quick sympathy, “The boy is alive and well, monsieur. 
I asked you to confirm that you had a son.” At the same 
time he told himself that this man might be acting. One 
could not be too careful. 

Julian Ashford passed a hand across his eyes. “Yes, I 
have a son,” he said. 


20 



CHAPTER THREE 


ULIAN made no attempt to question them on the 
drive back to Nice, and they offered no explanations. He 
had expected them to take him to his hotel or to the 
headquarters of the regional police at the other end of 
the town. Instead the car drew up under the portico of 
the Casino Mediterrane. The commissionaire saluted as 
they got out of the door, and watched their entrance 
with veiled curiosity. Obviously the policy here was 
business as usual. The chattering tourists and subdued 
regular patrons surrounded them as they walked up the 
broad staircase to the floor of the grand salon. He was 
not under arrest, but the police ofl&cers remained pur¬ 
posefully on either side of him. Near enough to make it 
quite clear that he was in their charge. They passed the 
closed doors where the uniformed flunkeys were checking 
the patrons into the salon, went on to the business side 
of the establishment, and into what Julian guessed must 
be the room of the Board of Directors. It had the right 
look of unhurried dignity, the long table with the un¬ 
used blotting tablets and correctly placed chairs. But 


21 



now at the head of the tatle there was a man in an 
untidy dark suit that looked too big for his body. A 
wide-brimmed black hat was on the table in front of 
him, and a limp cigarette was drooping from his lips. 
He had dark black hair and a sallow complexion and a 
protruding lower lip. Julian was to learn to know him 
as Inspector Henri Vernier. He changed the character 
of the room. 

And then Julian saw his son. He was sitting in a cor¬ 
ner and Penelope WhiteclifiEe was holding his hand. He 
had a quick impression that both of them had been 
frightened and upset. 

And then Tyler saw him and flew across the room like 
a bullet and clung to him. “Daddy, daddy, I knew you'd 
come back. I knew it, I told Miss Whitecliffe not to 
worry, I told her." He turned triumphantly to Penelope. 
“I told you he always comes and rescues me when there's 
trouble, didn't I?" 

Julian said gently, “We have to find out what the 
trouble is first, don't we? You go and sit quietly where 
you were^ and we'll see what this is all about." He re¬ 
sented the way in which the two men acted as guards as 
they escorted him to the man at the head of the table. 
The man who had taken his passport produced it now 
and placed it on the table before his chief, as if that in 
itself was an accusation. 

“Sit down, please." The man said this as if he found 
looking up at a man standing too much of a strain, and 
not from any desire to be polite. “You are Julian Ash¬ 
ford?" 

“Yes." 


22 



“Can you account for your movements this after¬ 
noon?*' 

“I can, but I would like very much to know first why 
I should." 

This official was different from the others. His ap¬ 
proach was direct. “You may know. A short time ago a 
man in your employ named Ainslie Frederick White- 
cliffe, schoolmaster, was murdered here in this Casino.” 

So that was it. He did not look to the comer where 
Penelope and Tyler were waiting and watching. He 
made his mind come to bear on the little man he had 
employed, on what his niece had said of him, of his vain¬ 
glorious telephone calls and his appointment for three 
o'clock . . . the final appointment in his private affairs. 

He said, “I'm glad you were able to stop me before I 
left the country. He was to have looked after my son. 
But you know that.” 

“Of course.” 

“Am I permitted to ask how he was murdered?” 

“The man was poisoned. The doctor has not com¬ 
pleted his examination, but we are sure of it. We want 
to know where you were at the time of his death.” 

The incredible fact that Mr. Whitecliffe had been 
murdered had been so much in his mind that he had 
forgotten that he was personally involved. “Time of his 
death? When did he die?” 

“Shortly after three o'clock.” 

“I don't know. I was finishing off last-minute busi¬ 
ness.” 

Henri Vernier looked at him cynically. “You knew 

23 



you had a plane to catch and yet you were not continu¬ 
ally looking at your watch?” 

“I imagine I might have been. One does that auto¬ 
matically.” 

“What was this last-minute business?” 

“I went to my ofiBce to sign some letters I had dictated 
earlier. I went to my bank to collect some travelers’ 
checks. I went to the American Express OflSce for my 
tickets.” 

“Is that all?” 

“I think so.” 

“And, of course, you visited the Casino. Why did you 
forget to mention that, monsieur? In case you think of 
denying it, we have a witness whom you may not wish 
to discredit. Your son saw you leaving.” 

He looked down to the other end of the room where 
Penelope was waiting with his son. The little boy was 
standing up, shaking with distress. 

“I didn't know that it was wrong to tell them, daddy. 
I was coming back to meet Mr. WhitecliflEe. He told me 
he would be in the Casino for half an hour. I went down 
the Promenade to play and when I was coming back I 
saw you come out. I called but you jumped into a car 
and drove away. They asked me when I saw you last 
and I told them. I didn't know it was wrong.” 

He saw Penelope put'a reassuring arm around the 
boy's shoulders. 

“Of course it was not wrong, Tyler,” he said quietly. 
“It's not wrong to tell the truth, ever.” 

The inspector said heavily, “It is strange that you 
forgot to mention the visit to the Casino, Mr. Ashford.” 

24 



That was no less than the truth. He had not only 
forgotten to mention it, but until he was reminded he 
had forgotten it entirely. He knew that no sensible, 
polite oflBcer would believe it. “Yes, of course, I came to 
the Casino. 1 was passing and 1 suddenly realized that I 
had been here last night and had forgotten to cash in 
my winnings. I had been wearing the clothes I am wear¬ 
ing now, and the plaques were in my pocket They 
didn’t amount to much, but 1 knew that Casino Medi- 
terrane chips would not be good girrency in Persia, so 
1 ran in here and changed them . . . ten thousand francs 
I think it was.” 

“What did you do with the money?” 

“I scribbled a note and asked the cashier to post it to 
Mr. Whitecliffe. I thought he might as well use it for 
expenses.” 

“Why do that?” 

“You know as well as I do that there is a limit to the 
amount of currency you can take out of the country.” 

“But since you knew that Mr. Whitecliffe was in the 
Casino, why not hand it to him?” 

Julian said flatly, “From the brief knowledge I had 
of Mr. Whitecliffe, this was the last place I would have 
expected him to be.” ^ 

“Unless, of course, you had arranged to meet him 
here.” 

Tyler broke away from Penelope and ran to the table 
and stood fiercely by his father's side. “Don't you say 
that about my father,” he said. “Mr. Whitecliffe and I 
both thought he had gone away. Mr. Whitecliffe was 
waiting for him to go so that he could come down here. 


25 



He told me he didn’t want my father to think he was 
the type who would go into casinos and neglect his 
duty. He wasn’t either. It was only just this once.” 

The inspector nodded heavily. ”You are right. It was 
just this once.” 

Julian put a reassuring hand on Tyler’s shoulder. 
“Don’t you worry about this.” He turned to the in¬ 
spector. “Is it necessary for him to stay here?” 

“Not necessary. He may go.” He turned to the girl 
who had followed Tyler to the table. “You, also, Miss 
WhitecliflEe. I will have a lot of questions to ask you, 
but they can wait. You will not leave the city.” 

She turned to Julian and briefly he took her hand. 
“I’m sorry about this. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you 
how sorry I am,” he repeated. 

“I’ll take Tyler back to the hotel and wait with him 
till you come,” she said quietly. 

He smiled bleakly. “I know now what you meant 
about not accepting responsibility,” he said. “Go with 
Miss Whitecliffe, Tyler. I won’t be long.” Julian smiled 
briefly at his son. 

As the door closed behind them the inspector said, “I 
must congratulate you. Obviously she is a very good 
friend of yours.” 

“Before this morning, I met Miss Whitecliffe once, 
when I entered my son at her school,” he said. 

The police officer raised his eyes and looked over 
Julian in slow appraisal. “What else can you tell us 
about this death?” he asked. 

“I think,” Julian said, “it would save a lot of time if 
you told me.” 

26 



Inspector Vernier lighted another drooping cigarette 
from the one he was about to discard. The ash lodged 
itself untidily on his dark waistcoat. Then he shrugged 
and turned to the clerk who had been taking notes at a 
table to the side. "Ask M. Keeble to come here,” he said. 

The clerk went out and the room became empty of 
sound. 

When John Keeble came in, he ignored the inspector 
and held out his hand to Julian. "I'm sure you re¬ 
member me. I met you when I was a kid in Burma. You 
knew my uncle, Peter Keeble. He was a planter out 
there.” He laughed pleasantly and added, "You were 
a hero of mine.” 

Only vaguely Julian remembered there had been a 
schoolboy staying for a short time on Pefer Keeble's 
place. It was impossible to identify him with this decora¬ 
tive young man. He looked at the blond hair that waved 
carelessly over his forehead, the almost too perfect 
bronze features and the nonchalantly correct clothes. He 
decided that John Keeble was not one of the world's 
workers. 

"I knew your uncle well,” he said. "How is he?” 

"Dead, poor chap. The concentration camp was no 
place for a man who liked his scotch as much as my 
Uncle Peter did.” He looked at Julian speculatively. 
"You haven't changed. I think I'd have recognized you 
even if Penelope hadn't set me wondering about your 
name. She told me this morning that you were going to 
employ her vague uncle, and I felt quite sorry for you.” 
He had a way of running from one idea to another in¬ 
consequentially. "I had often wondered if one day you 


27 



would show up here. And now here you are in the toils 
of the police." He laughed. 

Inspector Vernier said coldly, “I brought you here to 
talk to me. I have not all day. You are a friend of Miss 
WhitecliflEe, Mr. Keeble?" 

“As much as Miss WhitecliflEe will permit, or should I 
say as much as her conscience will permit? She doesn't 
approve of me." 

“Yet you were seen driving her in your car this morn- 
mg. 

“That car ... I think it must be the color. White is 
inclined to be conspicuous. If for no other reason than 
avoiding the attentions of the police, I should have 
chosen black. As it is, they persecute me." 

“Why does Miss WhitecliflEe not approve of you?" the 
inspector asked. 

John grinned maliciously. “I gather she feels that I 
should work." 

“How actually do you live, monsieur?" 

“Consider the lilies. Inspector. They toil not neither 
do they spin.” He looked down complacently at his own 
clothes. “Yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed 
like one of these.” 

“I asked you if you had any means of supporting 
yourself," the inspector said coldly. 

“Oh yes. I have some private means. Also I represent 
an insurance company.” 

“Which one?" 

Momentarily John Keeble dropped his banter. 
“Lloyd's of London. If you know of a better one I 
should be glad to hear of it But I would be grateful if 


28 



you did not ruin my standing here by spreading the 
rumor that I support myself. My friends here would 
start being sorry for me.” 

The inspector looked at him with dawning respect, 
but still as an adversary. “You knew the dead man?” 

“When I was a child, he happened to be one of my 
many tutors.” 

“Can you think of any reason why he should have 
been killed?” 

John Keeble looked at the questioner oddly. “Yes,” 
he said slowly. “He had happened on something that 
was too big for him to cope with. It was something that 
was afiEecting his niece's schools.” 

The inspector looked at him suspiciously as if he were 
unsure whether the witness was being serious or not. 
“What was this thing he was not big enough to deal 
with?” he asked. 

“I haven't an idea. Inspector. He was boyishly 
mysterious.” * 

Vernier placed his untidy hands on the table and 
pressed on them as he leaned forward. “You knew Miss 
Whitecliffe, you knew her uncle, and you were present 
when he died. Will you tell me exactly what happened 
this afternoon? Are you capable of giving me an exact 
picture?” 

John picked up a pencil from the table and tossed it 
in the air. He caught it neatly. “If your stenographer 
is ready, yes, I am quite capable,” he said. “I don't 
usually go to the Casino at that time in the afternoon. 
Nobody does, I mean nobody but the tourists and the 
old people who have nothing else in their lives. I just 


29 



happened to be near there and was at a loose end. When 
I went in they hadn't even begun to play. They were 
setting up the tables. That is quite a ritual, quite dra¬ 
matic till you get used to it, all the thousands and 
thousands of francs worth of plaques spread out on the 
green tables, all arranged according to their values, all 
in their neat rows. It makes you .think of an army in 
ceremonial dress, the big important generals, the 
colonels, the captains, the lieutenants, down to the poor 
little dingy white privates; all getting ready to go to 
their battle stations to wait for the enemy, which is the 
poor gullible crowd who think they are going to win." 

The inspector said impatiently, "Very interesting, but 
what actually happened, monsieur?" 

John Keeble looked at him in surprise. "That hap¬ 
pened . . . that happened first. I thought you wanted to 
know what happened* from the time I arrived. The 
patrons began to drift in. Some of them went to the bar, 
but most of them went and sat in chairs by the windows 
overlooking the Promenade. They spoke in low voices 
while they waited, like people do in church, waiting 
for the service to begin. 

"When the play began, the regular patrons had got 
to their regular places. It was very dull. Nobody bets 
very much at that time of the day. Nobody is very much 
interested, and the croupiers are mainly occupied with 
shuffling their chairs, making themselves comfortable 
for the day. It always takes a time to warm up. 

"Then I saw Mr. Whitecliffe. I'm not sure where he 
came from. I had an impression that it was from the 
direction of the bar. He was hurrying, but he looked 


30 



rather as if he were walking in a trance. He passed close, 
and I said hello to him but I don't think he heard me. 
He walked on and up the stairs that lead to the bureau 
de change. When he came back he was carrying a hand¬ 
ful of plaques. They were the oblong ones for ten 
thousand francs each, and he had quite a stack of them. 
It was no business of mine, of course, but I wondered 
vaguely if he had been embezzling the school funds. 
Prim little men do break out like that now and then, 
and when they do they can't stop. 

“He still had the same odd look about him as if he 
were an automaton. He came to the table where I was 
standing, and one of the attendants pulled out a chair 
for him and he sat down, and he still seemed not quite 
to know where he was or what he was doing. Because I 
knew him and knew Penelope, I couldn't help being 
interested. I stood behind his chair and watched. He 
toyed with his chips for a while and then he reached 
out and put two of them, twenty thousand francs, on 
red. Honestly I think I was more excited than he was. 
They started the wheel and then started the little white 
ball in the other direction. I held my thumbs. It raced 
around as if it were trying to make up its mind and it 
danced across the wheel and out the other side and then 
it launched itself into a slot and sailed around as if it 
had just come there for the ride. It was red, all right. 

“I wanted to tap the little man on the shoulder and 
tell him to pick up hia winnings and go home. Perhaps 
I should have done, but for some reason I didn't. 

“He left his original stake and the winnings on the 
board, that was forty thousand. Red came up again. 

31 



That was eighty thousand. He left it and red came up 
again. I wanted to tell him to stop, but again before I 
could decide he won again. By that time the crowd was 
pressing close to him, the way they do when someone is 
winning. It's a sort of instinctive desire they have to be 
near somebody in luck. 

“He looked awfully small, sitting hunched up, not 
knowing that everyone was watching him. His hands 
reached out and I thought he was going to collect his 
winnings. •But he did not. His head was lowered till it 
was almost touching the table. Then the wheel was 
spinning again, everybody was watching now, everybody 
but Mr. Whitecliffe. The ball stopped in red again. I 
saw the little man's body give a convulsive jerk. His 
hands shot out and his fingers clasped together around 
his winnings. His head dropped onto the green cloth 
and he sprawled there without moving. Nobody moved. 

“Then Raoul de Wollfe spoke and his voice sounded 
very loud, 1 don't want to cast a gloom over these pro¬ 
ceedings,' he said. ‘But I think that man is dead.''' John 
got up abruptly from the table as if he wanted to turn 
away from the memory. 

The inspector was watching him warily, drumming 
his swarthly fingers on the table in front of him. “Why 
should this De Wollfe suppose that he was dead? Why 
not assume that he had fainted; which would have been 
so much more likely." 

John said impatiently, “How should I know? Perhaps 
he had more experience, perhaps he was in the best 
position to see. It's not for me to guess. I'm passing on 
what I heard." 


32 



“This M. de Wollfe ... do you know him?” 

“Of course, everybody knows him. I'm sure you know 
him yourself, Inspector. He has a villa up near St. Paul 
and he entertains a lot. You know that as well as I do.” 

“That is beside the point, monsieur. I was asking what 
you know of him. Is he a close friend of yours?” 

“I know him quite well. One doesn't make lifelong 
friends in a place like this. We don't move in the right 
atmosphere.” 

Julian Ashford had been sitting a little apart, watch¬ 
ing the two men. He knew that they were two who 
would never be anything but antagonists. His respect 
for John Keeble had increased. 

The inspector was looking at his notes. “You said that 
when you first saw Mr. Whitecliffe he was coming from 
the bar.” 

John Keeble shook his head. “I said I was not sure 
but I had an impression that it was from the direction 
of the bar . . . quite different.” 

“You have nothing to add?” 

“Nothing.” 

“You mentioned M. de Wollfe. Did you come with 
him to the Casino?” 

“I met him there.” 

“By appointment?” 

Julian noted that there was a fractional hesitation. 
Then John Keeble shook his head. “I knew he was 
going to be there.” 

“How did you know that?” 

The young man answered with amused impatience. 

S3 



“His wife. Inspector. She said she had arranged to meet 
him there." 

The inspector turned to the derk. “M. de Wollfe is 
still in the Casino?" 

The clerk nodded. “We asked him to remain. He 
said that was his intention." 

“Ask him to come here, please." 

Raoul de Wollfe was what is described as a Well- 
Known Figure in the south of France. He was presum¬ 
ably rich because he entertained well without being 
ostentatious. If he gambled in the casinos it was on a 
scale that suggested that he was indulging a whim and 
that winning or losing were not really important to 
him, but he did play seriously and he was a formidable 
opponent. He was respected by the staflE of the Casino 
because he won more often than he lost and because 
win or lose he was invariably good mannered. That was 
rare; so, too, was his habit of treating people he met as 
human beings. He was an enthusiastic fisherman. He 
would take a duke or a waiter aside and talk about it. 
Whether it was May fly on the Test in England, or 
salmon in Norway, or bass in New England, he knew 
their ways and their whims. Fish, he said, gave him a 
good excuse for traveling in strange places. With his gray 
hair and clipped mustache, with his distinguished fea¬ 
tures and the unobtrusive elegance of his clothes, he was 
quite typically a man of leisure and a man of the world. 

“Hello, John," he said. “So they roped you in too?" 
He turned with polite interest to Julian. “You too, sir?" 

John introduced them, and Julian found himself 
wondering why Raoul de Wollfe made an unfavorable 


34 



impression on him. It may have been his eyes; they 
were without expression. 

De Wollfe turned and placed himself at the disposal of 
Inspector Vernier. “I*ve heard of you, of course. In¬ 
spector, but until now IVe been denied the pleasure of 
a meeting. Unfortunate that the occasion is such a 
sorry one. I only hope I can be of some use to you. It 
will be very little, I'm afraid." 

“I want to know first if you knew Mr. Whitecliffe," 
the inspector asked. 

Raoul de Wollfe frowned. "I don't think I'd met him. 
No, in fact, I'm sure I hadn't. I'd met his niece several 
times, however ... a charming girl. I rather wanted 
to help her." 

"Help her?" Vernier looked interested. 

"Financially." Then he raised a hand quickly in pro¬ 
test. "Please don't misunderstand. Inspector. The finan¬ 
cial help I would have given to Miss Whitecliffe would 
not have been for motives generally ascribed to a man 
of my age." He smiled. "The risk of incurring her wrath 
would have been much too great. My idea was to help 
her with her schools. I had considered the idea of becom¬ 
ing her partner." 

"Why, monsieur?" 

De Wollfe lighted a cigarette. "There are times when 
too much leisure can be exceedingly dull. When Pene¬ 
lope's father died it seemed to me that most likely the 
girl had inherited rather more than she had the ex¬ 
perience to cope with. The schools had a very fine 
tradition, but I found out that their financial backing 
was too slender to allow for expansion. It seemed to me 


35 



that there here was an opportunity to acquire an in¬ 
teresting hobby and, in the long term, a profitable one. 
I am very fond of travel and as the schools are located 
in some interesting countries they would give me the 
excuse I needed to travel without my journeys appearing 
merely aimless. I am a great believer in the spread of 
languages." He shrugged and smiled. “Or you can simply 
call it the whim of a man who has more leisure than 
he knows what to do with." 

“And you arranged this matter with Miss Whitecliffe?" 

“I did not. Miss Whitecliffe suggested quite politely 
that I should mind my own business." 

“You quarreled?" 

De Wollfe answered, “I do not make a habit of 
quarreling. Inspector . . . particularly with girls as young 
and charming as Miss Whitecliffe. But aren’t we wander¬ 
ing rather from the main theme?" 

“The dead man’s background is a part of the theme, 
monsieur." ^ 

“In that I am afraid I can give you no help about 
Mr. Whitecliffe. He was not, if I may say so, a notice¬ 
able little man. The only spectacular thing about his 
life, I should think, was the way he ended it. He should 
have kept away from the Casino." 

“You suggest that because he came here he was 
killed?" 

“I mean that such men as Mr. Whitecliffe are not 
meant to come into casinos and win fortunes. It simply 
is not in their stars.” 

Julian wondered if De Wollfe realized how much 
contempt there was in his voice. 

36 



Vernier said dryly, “You seem to know more about 
him than you have led me to believe.” 

“What is there to know? John Keeble was able to 
tell me all about him in twenty words.” 

“There is a suggestion that he came to the tables from 
the bar. Can you verify that?” 

“I can’t, I’m afraid. I might have noticed him if he’d 
dropped from the ceiling; not otherwise. I was on the 
watch for somebody far more striking.” 

“And that?” 

“My wife.” 

“When did you first become aware of him?” the in¬ 
spector asked. 

“I was aware of something of a stir at one of the 
tables, the sort of buzz that always is associated with 
anything unusual. I strojled over to see what was going 
on and there he was, with this almost indecent fortune 
piling up in front of him.” 

There was a pause and the inspector said slowly. “Why 
was it that you, almost before anybody else knew what 
was happening, were able to announce that the man was 
dead?” 

“Did I?” 

“Quite loudly, monsieur.” 

“I wonder.” Raoul de Wollfe touched his mustache 
tentatively as he pondered. ‘Tes, that is interesting, be¬ 
cause I did know quite certainly that he was dead. I 
suppose I knew instinctively that there could be only 
one possible end to an utterly preposterous scene. If 
the wheel had turned again and he had lost his money, 
that would have been merely an anticlimax. No, he had 


87 



to step out of his environment, he had to see more 
money than he would ever dream that he would possess 
piling up in front of him, and as he reached out to grasp 
it, the excitement of the moment had to kill him. It was 
perfect in its way ... a cameo. Without wishing to 
sound callous, I confess I'm glad to have seen it." 

There could be no doubt that he meant exactly what 
he said. 

The inspector’s voice was coldly matter-of-fact. “A 
perfect cameo perhaps, monsieur, but for the little fact 
that the man did not die of excitement. He was 
poisoned.” 

Julian had been watching closely, noting their reac¬ 
tions. What happened now was quite unexpected. Raoul 
leaped to his feet and his face flushed darkly with anger. 

“Did you bring me here in an endeavor to make a 
fool of me?” he demanded. 

“On the contrary. I wanted your help,” the inspector 
said quietly. 

“Then why was I not told that the man was poisoned? 
Why did you let me go on speculating, knowing what 
you did know? You wanted to score a little triumph 
over me in the presence of these men, isn’t that it?” 

All at once Julian realized that the powerful force in 
this man’s life was his vanity. The inspector had allowed 
him to propound his theory and then contemptuously 
brushed it aside and, more unfoi^veably still, he had 
done it before witnesses. 

“I resent people who try to make me look a fool, Mr. 
Inspector.” 

Henri Vernier was watching him with interest, as if 


38 



he had found another man in Raoul de Wollfe’s cloth¬ 
ing. “I can imagine you would resent it very much. It is 
something I must bear in mind.” He looked over De 
Wollfe again as if his outward appearance had become 
significant; the clothes that were so right, the hair 
and mustache so perfectly in character, the well-kept 
hands that were hardly those of an ardent fisherman, 
and the slim, unostentatious gold cigarette case that they 
were fumbling angrily was too perfect.. . too much time 
spent on the perfection. 

Julian Ashford knew what the inspector was thinking 
because the same thoughts were in his own mind. . . . 
Raoul de Wollfe's facade was everything ... his charm, 
his success and all the appearances that went with it. 
They mattered more to him than reality. Julian looked 
across to where John Keeble was sitting in the window 
alcove. His expression was that of somebody watching 
an intriguing play, and one that he had seen before. 
De Wollfe’s outburst was no surprise to him. He slid 
out of his seat by the window and strolled across and 
spoke quietly to Julian. 

“Quite an actof, isn’t he?” 

“I wouldn’t have said he was acting.” 

“He’s always acting. The role suits him, don’t you 
think?” 

De Wollfe had recovered his poise. “There is nothing 
I can add to what I have told you,” he was saying. 
“My wife will be pleased to confirm that I had arranged 
to meet her here.” 

Another police official came into the room. His man¬ 
ner indicated that he had urgent and secret news. He 

59 



waited until the inspector had detached himself from 
his witness and then whispered what he had to say. He 
handed over a slip of paper. 

Obviously the inspector regarded what he had been 
told as important. His fingers tugged at his lower lip as 
he considered. He spoke aloud, “You are quite sure of 
this. They could not have made a mistake?” 

“There's no possibility of a mistake.” 

The inspector nodded. He dismissed the assistant and 
came back to his place at the head of the table. His 
fingers took up their irritating tattoo on the w.qod under 
his hand. “These schools,” he asked De Wollfe, “are you 
still anxious to gain control of them?” 

Raoul answered warily as if he wondered what the 
question was leading to. “Anxious is not the word I 
would apply to my feelings. But I am still interested.” 
His vanity made him add, “You see, when I set out to 
do something, I usually do it.” 

The inspector said slowly, “It might interest you to 
know that the money Whitecliffe used to buy his original 
stake today was counterfeit.” 

Julian heard John Keeble's low gasp of surprise. The 
inspector glanced at him briefly, but his interest still 
centered on Raoul de Wollfe. “Does that mean anything 
to you, monsieur?” 

“Mean anything to me?” De Wollfe leaned back in 
his chair. “I can't think why it should. I've heard rumors 
that there is rather a lot of counterfeit money floating 
about. Almost impossible for a layman to detect it, they 
tell me.” 

“You are right, it is almost impossible. The Germans 


40 



printed it years ago. Somebody has decided that now is 
the time to put it into circulation again.*' 

“Very interesting. But Inspector, why do you single 
me out for these disclosures?** 

“It occurs to me that the money may very well have 
come from Miss WhitecliflEe's school.** 

“What absolute rot . . .** The startled protest came 
from John Keeble. 

Vernier turned to him. “I am assuming that the man 
was gambling with hiS own money . . . with his pay, in 
fact,** he added sarcastically. “You know the man. Can 
you suggest a reason why anybody should have given it 
to him? He was not, I think, the type who would be 
given a sum of money in return for his favors.** He 
treated John to a pointed stare. “As are some of those 
who live so well down here.** 

“I take your meaning completely. Inspector. You 
flatter me. But why shouldn’t someone have been re¬ 
paying the little man a loan?** 

“Because, ** the inspector said, “when a man has be¬ 
come so reduced,that he has to borrow from a poor 
schoolmaster, he is seldom in a position to repay it, 
because it means that he has exhausted all the more 
likely sources. I am convinced that the money came 
from the sAool.** 

John had shed his amiable facade. “Are you trying to 
suggest that Miss Whitecliffe paid her uncle his ^salary 
in counterfeit money?** 

The inspector shrugged. “Not entirely. What I do 
think is that he was paid his salary and that some other 
student offered to change it into dollars at the standard 


41 



rate. The idea of making a small profit would appeal 
to him. In his arid life that might seem romantic Then 
what happens? He discovers that the money is counter¬ 
feit and in a panic he decides that he must get rid of 
it quickly and he rushes to the Casino to gamble and, 
if he wins, to cash his winnings into genuine currency. 
But the man who made the original transaction is 
shrewder. He knows that the Casino of all places is the 
most dangerous because here they work closest to the 
police.'* • 

Raoul de Wollfe had been caressing his mustache and 
listening as if he were interested in all this, but only 
academically. “But why the school?” he asked. “In fact, 
the transaction you describe could have taken place on 
any street comer, or in any bar in Nice. Surely you are 
letting the school become an obsession with you?” 

The inspector agreed. “We are not precisely fools,” he 
said. “And almost as well as you do, monsieur, we know 
the petty transactions that take place on the street 
comers and in the bars. We do not take official notice 
of them because our dty has its reputation to consider, 
but we know them and we know those who indulge in 
them; be sure of that. Also we have a good picture of 
the character of Mr. Whitecliffe. He did not frequent 
bars and he would be horrified at the thought of a 
street comer transaction. But on the other hand he 
would be very happy to oblige a student at the school, 
and he would go even to the length of gambling at the 
Casino if he thought by doing so he could protect the 
school's good name.” 

As he listened Julian remembered what Penelope 
42 



had said to him and he knew that the inspector’s ap¬ 
praisal could be approaching the truth. Loyalty to the 
school would be a very potent factor in the behavior of 
Mr. Whitecliffe. 

He saw Raoul de Wollfe raise his hand with a gesture 
of dramatic protest. “But Inspector, Miss WhitecliflEe, 
that charming girl . . 

The inspector interrupted him sourly, “I am not 
thinking exclusively of Miss WhiteclifiEe. Everybody 
makes allowances for a student: he is poor, he is trying 
to educate himself and in his high spirits he breaks 
many laws and craves much indulgence. With proper 
organization there is much that a criminal could do 
with such material.” 

De Wollfe put his hands on the table and leaned back 
to laugh with genuine amusement. “Heaven preserve 
me, Inspector, I had no idea the depths to which I had 
sunk!” When there was no answering laugh from Vernier 
he leaned forward and his manner was serious. “I have 
a rather expensive position to maintain,” he said, “Surely 
you realize that the venture you suggest would have to 
be most profitable to make it worth my while? The 
question is, would it pay?” 

The inspector said flatly, “In the last month in Nice 
alone we have identified two hundred thousand dollars 
in counterfeit money, monsieur.” 

There was a heavy silence. Then the inspector turned 
to his clerk. “I will see Mrs. de Wollfe now,” he said. 
He turned his back and strolled over to where Julian 
was waiting with John Keeble. “Novel experience, be- 

43 



ing a suspect in a murder case, isn’t it? Or have either 
of you been through it before?” 

Julian said something vaguely polite. John, standing 
with his eyes on the door, did not bother to reply. Any 
woman would have been flattered at the air of ex¬ 
pectancy with which they waited for Raoul de Wollfe’s 
wife. They waited like a reception committee, facing 
the door. 

The clerk opened it and stood aside with a little bow. 

She came in and paused in the doorway, habitually, 
as most beautiful women do, striking a pose. 

Risa. . . . 

Julian Ashford took a step forward. Whether he spoke 
her name aloud he did not know. He stood there with 
his hands rigid at his sides, looking at her across the 
years. 

Risa had been smiling quizzically at Raoul de Wollfe. 
Then she saw Julian. Her body stiffened and her head 
raised. The blood went out of her face and she remained 
as immobile as a statue. They faced each other in a 
world of their own. 

Julian heard John Keeble say in an oddly stilted voice, 
don’t think you have met. Risa, this is Julian Ash¬ 
ford, he was a friend of my uncle’s in Burma.” 

She walked across to where Julian was waiting. It was 
a fine example of control. She smiled at him. “No,” she 
said. “I don’t think we have met, have we, Mr. Ash¬ 
ford?” 

He took the hand she held out to him. It was rigid 
and dry. He answered her with a voice that he barely 

44 



recognized as his own. “I am a complete stranger in 
Nice.*' 

They stood looking at each other. She had not changed 
except in the sense that maturity brings change. She 
was more beautiful. Her white-blonde hair had been 
done by an artist instead of the Japanese barber the 
women used to patronize, the one they used to say was 
so good; the one who turned out later to be the chief 
of the enemy's intelligence service . . . and who took 
charge during the occupation. It was odd that looking 
at her hair he should have remembered it. Her hair was 
difEerent now. The artist in Nice had decided that she 
should look like a madonna. It was parted in the center 
and drawn back to accentuate her features, the perfect 
olive skin, the full red lips, the quiet repose of her face. 
The Japanese had fussed with her beautiful hair, curl¬ 
ing and piling it. How silly he had been. 

She had control of herself now. She even managed 
to make her voice politely casual. ''Do you hope to stay 
long in Nice, Mr. Ashford?" 

He could almost believe that she really was a stranger, 
that he was meeting her for the first time. "I had hoped 
to leave today," he said. "I had hoped to leave my son 
at school here and go on alone to the Middle East. He 
has been traveling with me rather more than was good 
for him." 

"How sad for him. Aren't you afraid he's going to be 
lonely when you've gone? Or will he make lots of 
friends?" 

He had a feeling that they were together on a stage 

45 



and that they were speaking lines from a play. But of 
course she was acting. She had been on the stage long 
ago, when they had first met. She left the stage to marry 
him, but she had not stopped acting. 

“I hope he will make friends," he said. 

Raoul de Wollfe interrupted them. “I'm afraid, Risa," 
he said, “the inspector here is getting impatient wth us. 
He fears that we are trying to turn his little inquisition 
into a social affair. Is that not so. Inspector?" 

“You may be trying, monsieur, but you will not 
succeed." 

Raoul de Wollfe gave a rueful shrug and turned back 
to his wife. “You see what I mean, Risa. What he really 
wants you to do is to give me an alibi for this after¬ 
noon." 

She raised her eyebrows and then permitted herself 
an amused smile. “But, Raoul, how delightfully absurdi" 

Raoul shook his head. “On the contrary, this officer 
does not think it the least absurd. In fact, Risa, neither 
do I." 

Perhaps from his tone she interpreted it as an order. 
A touch of angry color came into her cheeks. “The 
whole idea is offensive," she said. “I refuse absolutely 
to be identified with anything so stupid. I am surprised 
that my husband has not taken the same attitude." 

The inspector said, “We have taken a note of your 
refusal, madam." If anything he looked rather pleased. 
“Your attitude is remarkable. Most women, when their 
husbands are involved in a crime, will rush forward to 
give them an alibi even if they have to manufacture it. 


46 



They consider it part of their duty as a wife.” 

Risa turned slowly around to face Julian, stiffly, as if 
she were accepting a challenge. As they faced each other 
she spoke to the police officer. “You are wrong. In¬ 
spector. It is not part of my duty as a wife.” 


47 



CHAPTER FOUR 


O they had met again. As he walked back slowly 
along the Promenade des Anglais, Julian’s memory of 
the encounter was more vivid than the actual experi¬ 
ence. Mrs. Raoul de Wollfe was Risa Ashford, and yet 
fantastically he had found himself accepting her as 
what she pretended to be . . . Mrs. de Wollfe. It was 
Risa herself who had finally shattered the illusion. He 
would never forget that swift dramatic moment when 
she had swung away from De Wollfe, nor when she had 
denied her duty to him as a wife. Julian wondered if 
Raoul had realized the significance of what she had said. 
Probably not; he would have been too outraged at her 
defiance and too aware that she had made him appear 
ridiculous. He wondered how well De Wollfe knew 
Risa, and he wondered further how much did he de¬ 
serve to know her. It could be that all he desired or 
needed of Risa was on the surface. She was beautiful, 
she could be charming, she could be remorselessly cruel, 
and undoubtedly she could be one of those women who 
could underwrite a man’s success. Perhaps all he wanted 


48 



was for strangers who asked to be told that she was 
Raoul de Wollfe's wife. 

But it was not Risa*s relationship with De Wollfc 
that mattered now. It was her relationship with himself. 
He could easily imagine the panic she must have felt 
when she came into that room. Until that moment she 
must have felt completely safe. She must have grown 
more and more secure as the years passed. She would 
have forced the past from her mind, memories of Ran¬ 
goon and Singapore, the ramshackle social structure in 
which a white woman lost caste if she bathed her own 
baby or picked up its toys from the floor; where there 
were too many servants who had too much time, where 
everybody pretended they were living in exile and wait¬ 
ing only for the time when they could go home. They 
used to speak as if each and every one of them were 
waiting to retire to a dream house with sleek horses in 
its stables and a groom to take the children hacking in 
the crisp autumn sunshine. They lived in a world they 
read about in the illustrated society magazines that 
arrived limp and a month old. 

He found himself making allowances for Risa. His 
own life had been different, and she could not or would 
not share it. It was not for her to understand the en¬ 
twining ties that make a man rather die on the fringe 
of civilization than luxuriate at its center. He never 
could explain that to Risa, but he could understand 
how she felt. He could even now condone that last 
dreadful night they had been together. It struck him, 
as he walked along the crowded, chattering Promenade, 
that that might have been their last night on earth. 


49 



Today they had met again and it could have been that, 
instead of meeting him in the room in Nice, she had 
walked into the bungalow in the tropics and said, 
“Julian, you know we don't have to stay in this place. 
For heaven's sake, darling, why stay?'' And then, before 
he could answer, “Oh yes, I know, this is your life. I've 
heard it all, Julian, but I've taken the trouble to find 
out the truth. You could go away, you could have twice 
as much money and twice as much prestige, but you 
won't leave, will you? You love it better than you love 
me." 

He heard a scream of tires, and a hand on his shoulder 
dragged him back. John Keeble said mildly, “The 
trouble with wide open spaces is that you can't take 
them with you. You were strolling in front of a taxi. 
They are more lethal than tigers.'' 

Julian smiled. “Thanks for the help. As a matter of 
fact I was rather far away.'' 

“So I noticed. I've been walking beside you for nearly 
a block. I wanted to ask you to have a drink, but I 
hardly liked to interrupt.'' 

It occurred to Julian that a drink was the very thing 
he was in need of. But Tyler was waiting at home and 
without doubt tearing his hair in fearful excitement. 
“I'd like one very much, but I'm afraid. . . .'' 

“If you are worrying about your son, don't. He has a 
new governess.'' 

“I'm afraid Miss Whitecliffe has other things to do be¬ 
sides looking after Tyler.'' Julian spoke rather stiffly. 

“You're)hopelessly out of date. I rang your apartment 
five minutes ago to ask if there was anything I could do 

50 



for Penelope. She was not there. Mrs. Tilford has the 
job now.” 

Julian stopped to look at him in astonishment. ”Who 
the devil is Mrs. Tilford?” 

John took him firmly by the arm. “Mrs. Tilford is 
quite a story,” he said. “But from my personal experi¬ 
ence I can tell you that if she has decided to take care 
of Tyler, he's being taken care of. Most of the friends 
she has now she made when they were about five years 
old. I'm honored to say that I'm one of them. If you 
go back now you'll find yourself positively in the way. 
So come ahead and get that drink!” 

John had a house back from the sea on the Boulevard 
Victor Hugo. There was a high wrought-iron fence in 
front of it and a flagstone path to the door. There was 
another little garden with a high, protecting wall at the 
back. It had all the discretion of an old French dwell¬ 
ing. The drawing room had high ceilings and soft green 
walls. A bright fire in the grate was making the shadows 
dance on them silently. 

Julian stood looking about him. This was the sort of 
room j>eople imagined themselves in, when they listened 
to the whining electric fans in some sweltering make¬ 
shift club in the tropics. “Yes,” he said as if in answer 
to a question he had asked himself. “Yes, this is very 
attractive. Did you furnish this yourself?” 

“Partly. Some of the things I took over from the 
owner. You'd never believe it, but he was a headwaiter 
at one of the hotels down at the front He used to keep 
his own servant here, and collected rare books. People 
retire and come to live on the Riveria. He retired and 


51 



went back to Paris; odd about things you want in life, 
isn't it?" 

A man came in with a tray of drinks. He put it down 
and rearranged the fire and went out. 

"I inherited him, too,” John said. 

“It seems you were lucky all around.” 

Julian was grateful for the fire, for the drink, for the 
atmosphere of the room. He felt briefly remote from 
what had happened in the afternoon. Suddenly he had 
another reminder of the past. There was a knife in a 
sheath standing point downward on the mantle above 
the fire. He nodded to it and said, “You brought a 
souvenier back from the East?” 

John gave an exasperated laugh. “Yes,” he said. “I can 
imagine a kid getting a thing like that and proudly 
toting it home. But why I, a grown man, should have 
been carrying it around ever since, I can't understand. 
There is one exactly the same in a curio shop in the 
Rue de France. When I saw the price I felt quite in¬ 
sulted. I could have bought it for a hundred francs.” 
He stretched his hands out to the fire. “I suppose I 
should congratulate myself that the little man was 
poisoned rather than stabbed with a knife,” he said 
easily. 

Julian looked at him oddly. “Perhaps he would have 
been, if poisoning had not been more convenient,” he 
said quietly. 

“I see what you mean. The inspector has gathered an 
odd assortment of suspects, hasn't he? What did you 
think of Raoul de Wollfe?” 

“I should say that he finds Raoul de Wollfe a very 


52 



satisfactory person. The inspector didn't seem to share 
his views." 

"Raoul’s ambition is to be the most popular host in 
Nice. I think he chose this place because he likes his 
acquaintanceships to be brief. Most people are happy to 
oblige him." 

"Is there something wrong with him?" It was so 
against his nature to inquire into other people's lives 
that his tone was cold, almost hostile. 

John, on the other hand, belonged to a world where 
it was dull not to say exactly what you thought about 
anybody and everybody. "You don’t like or dislike 
people like Raoul de Wollfe. He’s a social careerist 
When he gives a party he invites the guests with a view 
to decorating his table, and so that it will be generally 
known that he gives the best parties in Nice. He prob¬ 
ably has starving relatives all over the place." And in 
the same casual way he asked, "Wasn’t it a shock to 
see Risa?” 

So it was no secret. Julian did not take his eyes from 
the fire. "Mrs. de Wollfe is very charming. Have you 
known her long?" 

John laughed. "I hope you don’t mind, but I fell in 
love with Risa a long time ago. She didn’t know that I 
existed and I didn’t really ;want her. But out in Burma 
I used to ride my bicycle past her bungalow about 
twenty times a day in the hope that I might see her in 
the garden or on the verandah." 

There was a pause between them and then Julian 
said in the quiet, controlled way he had, "Yes, I can 

53 



understand a boy doing that. 1 suppose we all do at one 
time or another. Does she know about it?** 

John got up and leaned against the mantelpiece. 
“No,** he said. “When next I saw Risa it didn*t seem 
appropriate to tell her. I couldn*t tell her that 1 had 
loved her when she didn*t even remember me.** 

“Didn*t you think she might have been amused?** 

“I think she would more likely have been frightened 
... as she was today,** he added slowly. 

Julian walked to the table and refilled his glass. “If 
she knew, I*m sure she would be grateful to you,** he 
said. 

John shook his head. “There would be no cause for 
gratitude. It was a sort of schoolboy*s dream. She was 
a young married woman and, as far as I was concerned, 
utterly unapproachable, on a pedestal in a jungle garden 
while I sweated by on a bicycle, not even daring to look 
at her. It may help you to know that I have forgotten 
her married name. Goddesses don*t have married 
names.** He tossed his cigarette into the fire and added 
lightly, “But I like Mr^. de WoUfe very much indeed, 
don*t you?** 

Julian knew that John was reassuring him, but at the 
same time he was telling him that he knew. In the pause 
Julian felt as he had often felt in the jungle, when the 
hunter and the hunted stand in absolute stillness, wait¬ 
ing for the other to make a move. “I think,** he said, 
“it might be a good idea if you could explain to me why 
you told me the story of Risa*s past.** 

“There are some things you can't explain.** John's 
voice became patient. “Risa is the wife of Raoul de 

54 



Wollfe, and they are both living here in the frothy, 
meaningless way that we all live here, and 1 don't want 
Risa and myself to be identified with the schoolboy and 
his idol in Burma. What have you to say to that?” 

Julian got up reluctantly from his seat by the fire. 
The lines were etched more deeply into his cheeks. ”I£ 
I had to say anything, John, 1 would have to say God 
help you,” he said. 


55 



CHAPTER FIVE 


HE could not have been more than five feet tall 
and she was thin as a rail. Her white hair was drawn 
back in a bun at the back of her head from a parting 
in the middle. Obviously she regarded Julian's entry 
into his own apartment as a form of burglary. 

“Who are you?" she asked belligerently. 

Julian smiled because he had been warned about 
Mrs. Tilford. “You're Mrs. Tilford, aren't you? You've 
been nicely taking care of Tyler?" 

“About time, too. Somebody had to take care of the 
child," she said bluntly. 

“We do live in an odd way, I'm afraid, but we both 
rather like it, you know." Julian smiled slightly. 

She looked up at him as if she were looking at a, not 
very bright child. “Naturally. You travel from place to 
place, leaving other people to clean up the mess you 
leave behind you," she stated. 

“That's interesting, won't you sit down and tell me 
exactly what a wretched parent I am? John Keeble told 
me you were a tyrant, so I know what to expect." 

She deposited herself in a chair. “So John told you 
that? Let me tell you that as long as there are John 
Keebles in the world there will have to be tyrants." 


56 



Julian found himself strangely glad that she was there 
in his suite. “Also he said you were a friend of his/* he 
added quietly. 

She looked ridiculously pleased, and he went on. 

“I didn’t even know that you were with Tyler till 
John told me. When last I heard. Miss Whitecliffe was 
taking care of him.” 

“Precisely,” she said. “Penelope. Didn’t it occur to 
you, Mr. Ashford, that Penelope might have other things 
to do?” 

He felt properly rebuked. “Yes, Mrs. Tilford. But she 
took him away and was so charming about it that I’m 
afraid I took it for granted.” 

“Every male takes everything for granted, Mr. Ash¬ 
ford. Had it not occurred to you that her uncle had 
been murdered, and you quietly accepted her offer to 
come back here and take care of your son?” 

He realized with a sense of shock how true that was. 
He had accepted it ... a girl whom he had known for 
a few minutes. He knew very little about girls like 
Penelope Whitecliffe, and very little about the austere 
little woman who seemed to have taken charge now. 
For no reason, they took over responsibilities. 

“Yes,” he said. “I’m sorry. I should have thought 
about that.” 

Mrs. Tilford smiled • suddenly and said, “The mad¬ 
dening thing is that we like it.” Then she gave a warn¬ 
ing scowl. “I am npt speaking, mark you, of Penelope. 
I am speaking of an interfering old woman like me. I 
like your son, Mr. Ashford. Naturally, of course, a child 
brought up as he has been is bound to be impossible. 


57 



For the first time in his life he is tidying his room/' 

He took a deep breath. “I don't think I heard you 
correctly, Mrs. Tilford. Did you say that Tyler was 
tidying his room?" 

She nodded. "To the best of his ability, and doubtless 
he's hating it." 

"But how did you manage it?" 

She looked a little self-conscious. "I made a deal with 
him, a bargain. I agreed that tomorrow I will take a 
donkey ride. I understand that he has some sort of busi¬ 
ness arrangement with the woman who controls the 
donkeys and that he gets a commission on any business 
he brings. I agree that it is utterly preposterous and I 
trust that I shall not meet any of my friends; but I have 
committed myself to riding the animal and I shall. I 
understand that part of your son's duties is to walk be¬ 
side the animal urging it on with a small stick." 

Julian saw how she had gained Tyler's confidence and 
he was not only grateful to her, he was strangely re¬ 
assured. "Don't you think it might help," he said, "if 
I acted as your deputy and took the donkey ride? Please, 
Mrs. Tilford, you mustn't let Tyler talk you into these 
things. There'll be no end to them." 

She looked at him severely. "It is not my habit to back 
out of a bargain, Mr. Ashford. I have been looking for 
an excuse to ride around the square on one of those 
donkeys ever since I have been in Nice." 

"Have you been here long, Mrs. Tilford?" 

She snorted. "Long enough to be completely out of 
patience with the place. I prefer to be where people 

58 



have work to do. I am down here to keep an eye on my 
nephew Charles." 

"You have a nephew here?” 

Mrs. Tilford explained. "Charles,” she said, "is one 
of those aimless young men who are always going to 
establish themselves in a career at some distant date. At 
the moment he is preparing himself for the diplomatic 
service. It is a career in which a knowledge of foreign 
languages is most essential. But Charles did not go to 
Paris and enroll himself at the Sorbonne where they 
would have made him work. He came here instead. 1 
happen to know that he has got himself ensnared by a 
young dancer named Jane Land, who is down here for 
the season.” 

"He sounds quite a problem.” Julian smiled. He did 
not have to be introduced to this nephew Charles to be 
able to guess what he would be like. He had met too 
many faithful copies in the past. 

Mrs. Tilford picked up her sensible brown bag and 
thrust it under the arm of her tweed coat. "Tyler has 
had his supper and bath. His fresh clothes for the 
morning are on the chair at the foot of the bed. If you 
tell him to wait for me in the lobby downstairs, I shall 
walk with him to school.” 

"Now, really, Mrs. Tilford . . .” 

She interrupted him. "Mr. Ashford, I have reached a 
time of life when I feel that I'm entitled to consult my 
own wishes. I like your little boy very much. But then 
I like most children, there are not nearly enough of 
them in this place.” 


59 



He could do no more than to escort her to the 
elevator. 

The room was empty when he came back, too empty. 
He realized now how very much he had wanted Penelope 
to be waiting here when he came back. It would have 
been like a return to sanity. But Mrs. Tilford was emi¬ 
nently sane, so it could not have been entirely that. He 
had wanted it to be Penelope. He walked to the phone 
with an idea that he would call her ... to thank her. 
But he shrugged and turned away. It was very unlikely 
that she would welcome any approach from him. Even 
his motives in telephoning would not have been honest. 
To thank her would have been sincere enough, but it 
would not have been the whole truth. Nearer the whole 
truth would be that he was trying to put another woman 
between himself and Risa. . . . 

He went into Tyler’s room. He had never seen it so 
tidy. Not a single item of wearing apparel was lying on 
the floor, not even a sock. As a man and as the father 
of Tyler Ashford, he could only think of Mrs. Tilford 
as a worker of miracles. The little boy was tucked up 
in his bed smiling in his sleep. His arm lay possessively 
over the book she had been reading to him. He looked 
very secure. 

Julian stood looking down at the boy. It would not be 
credible that Risa would not want to see her son. If 
only out of curiosity she would want to see him, to look 
for something of herself in him. At that moment he 
would have given most of what he possessed to be able 
to wake Tyler from his confident sleep and take him 
away; to get out of Nice. He realized now that he had 


60 



left an impression in the boy's mind that his mother, 
as mother, was forever out of his range. He might even 
have left the impression that she was an angel, watching 
patiently from heaven. Tyler had asked where his 
mother was, and he had begun weaving the fabric of a 
legend. And out of his own mind the legend had grown. 
Because Tyler had never known her, she could do no 
wrong. 

Julian went to his own room. The bed was turned 
down, pajamas were on the pillow, a dressing gown 
was neatly folded over the bed rail, slippers were wait¬ 
ing primly for their occupancy. The pajamas were wool 
with wide brown stripes. The dressing gown was faded 
green. Everything was as it should be, except that none 
of these garments were his own. He looked at them 
with a sense of revulsion. It was enough that he should 
have been dragged off the plane and brought back to 
experience what he had been through today. It was too 
much that he was to sleep in the bed that had been 
prepared for Mr. Whitecliffe, to find the homely night 
attire, the sensible dressing gown and the worn slippers, 
all waiting with inanimate patience for a corpse. The 
sensible hairbrush and a comb and some toilet bottles 
and a small picture in a frame were waiting on the 
dressing table. They were all eloquent of Mr. White¬ 
cliffe, more like him than he had been as he described 
himself when he applied for the job . . . the personal 
property of the dead, revealing the pathos of their lives. 

He went out of the room and closed the door, and as 
he came back into the lounge the phone began to ring. 

“I'm here, downstairs," Penelope said. “I think my 


61 



uncle must have taken his things to your suite. I know 
you won't want them there. If it isn't inconvenient. 
I'll take them away with me." 

He knew now how much he had been wanting to hear 
her voice. He said, "Have you had any food?" 

"No, I haven't, but . . ." 

"Please don't say but . . . I'm coming down." He put 
the receiver down before she could reply. 

To the elevator attendant he said, "My little boy is 
asleep upstairs. Would you mind keeping an eye on 
him?" 

"Certainly, monsieur, he is a very good friend of mine 
and of all of us." The attendant smiled. "He knows 
more people in this hotel than you will ever guess; 
myself, the porters, the people in the kitchen, the man¬ 
ager. He has had himself appointed a member of the 
staff." 

"Has he indeed? How did he manage that?" 

"Because he does not come into a hotel as if it were 
a hotel but as if it were a home. He expects the same 
feeling of security, and naturally we all conspire to give 
it to him," the man said simply. 

A hotel as a home ... it was a bitter comment on the 
way he had brought up his son. "You must have de¬ 
cided that I am a very bad father," Julian said dryly. 

"No, we have decided that you have a very nice boy. 
We try to make him feel secure." He swung back the 
gates. "Goodnight, Mr. Ashford." 

Penelope was standing by the showcases near the en¬ 
trance to the dining room. 

He walked to her side. "Miss Whitecliffe, I'm sorry, 


62 



but I couldn’t know how right you were this morning. 
I did bring trouble into your life.” 

She raised her head to look up at him. “It was not 
your fault, but I did try to tell you that my uncle was 
not very good at taking care of himself.” 

“I thought you were being foolish. I’m sorry about 
that too,” he said humbly. 

There was a flash and he swung around to see a 
photographer folding away his camera. He was quite 
obviously satisfied with this one shot. They watched him 
hurry away through the vestibule. 

Julian took her arm and realized that she was trem¬ 
bling. “I know it’s only what we should expect,” she 
said. “I suppose this is only a beginning, the feeling of 
shame, wanting to hide, wanting to run . . . only there 
isn’t anywhere to run.” 

“There is no need to be ashamed. You haven’t done 
anything to be ashamed of,” he said stoutly. 

“Do you think that makes any difference?” 

He said gently, “Perhaps not. But you must believe 
me when I say that it won’t last long. You see I have 
been through something like this before.” 

She looked at him wth a flash of interest and then 
shook her head. “My uncle did nothing to hurt any¬ 
body. He was too gentle, he would rather be hurt him¬ 
self. He couldn’t have had enemies.” 

Somebody obviously had not agreed with her. 

“I’m told that the best restaurants here are in the 
back streets where the local people go. Why not go to 
one of them, somewhere where we won’t be noticed?” 
he suggested. 


65 



She laughed. “Not noticed ... I live in Nice, but I am 
one of the Foreign Colony and what we do is bread and 
butter to every go^ip in the Ville. When a foreign resi¬ 
dent is involved in a scandal, every man, woman and 
child knows about it. They depend on us for their en¬ 
tertainment, for their local jokes. If we go to one of the 
little restaurants, it will be filled in ten minutes with 
people who have come to have a look at us; because we 
have gone there together. The people who go from one 
place to another to sing will sing songs about us. They 
will sing them in the local dialect and suppose that we 
don't understand,” her voice broke. “Unfortunately I 
will know what they are all laughing about. You might 
even laugh, too, because it all sounds so gay. That, of 
course, would be the cream of the joke.” 

He realized all at once how little it meant whether 
you were guilty or innocent. All that mattered was that 
you were in a trap. If he, as a suspect, were seen dining 
with the niece of the victim, how pleasurably outraged 
the onlookers could be. He guided her back toward the 
elevator. “At least nothing like that can happen in my 
suite,” he said. 

The attendant stepped out and waited for them to 
enter. An odd change came over his expression when 
he saw Penelope. It became guarded as if a problem 
had presented itself. Instead of going on up after he had 
brought them to their floor, he dropped briskly back to 
the first floor. 

Julian took Penelope's coat and he noticed that she 
ran her hand with a gesture of relief through her hair. 
She looked at the closed door as if it were a protection. 

64 



‘I'm sorry I had to run away this afternoon,” she 
said. 

“Mrs. Tilford was here when I came back. It was 
clever of you to find her.” 

“Find her . . .” It was the first time there had been 
amusement in her laugh. “You don't find Mrs. Tilford; 
she's just there. . . . She came here and sent me away 
because she knew that there were a lot of things I would 
have to do. My uncle is one of the few relatives I have 
left in the world ... at least he was. He always said he 
wanted to be buried in England. There are things you 
have to do. You don't think of them, but Mrs. Tilford 
does. She said you have to go out and face the first 
formalities of death. She said it was a kind of ritual 
that made things easier.” 

“She may have been right. I'm afraid the deaths I 
have seen have not been very civilized. They have gen¬ 
erally been violent.” He took her hands and said, 
“Penelope, I seem to have brought the same violence 
into your life. Believe me I didn't want to!” 

“How could you have avoided it?” 

The springs of emotion are not predictable. It may 
have been that they found themselves clinging together 
in a sea of trouble, but it was more than that. It came 
not as a desire to survive together but to escape to¬ 
gether. In his arms she could have been laughing or 
crying. Her tears were wet on his cheeks and salt on his 
lips. But tears spring from many fountains, and pleasure 
and pain are close neighbors. 


65 



CHAPTER SIX 


U RESENTLY Penelope smiled at him. “You thought 
I was hysterical this morning, didn't you?" 

“Julian." 

“Didn't you, Julian? What do you think now?" 

“I think," he said, “you are probably hungry. Don't 
you remember we were going to have dinner?" 

“I won't go to a restaurant. I can't . . . not tonight." 

“Then the only other thing is to have supper sent 
up here." 

He took up the phone and asked to be connected to 
dining room service. He gave his name and asked them 
to send up a waiter with the menu. 

“Yes, M. Ashford, thank you, sir." The voice sounded 
guarded. 

The phone rang almost immediately. It was the as¬ 
sistant manager. “I'm very sorry, Mr. Ashford, I under¬ 
stand that you contemplate having supper with Miss 
Whitecliffe in your suite." 

Julian asked coldly, “Do I have to ask your per¬ 
mission?" 

“As a rule, most certainly not. But the circumstances] 
monsieur, are not usual." 

“I think you should explain yourself a little more 
fully." 



“If you insist. The fact that you are staying in this 
hotel and another man who was to have occupied the 
same suite has been murdered is bringing us some un¬ 
welcome notoriety. If you take my advice, you will not 
entertain Mile Whitecliffe in your suite on the very 
night her uncle was murdered.** 

“Are you going to put that in the newspapers, too?’* 
Julian asked angrily. 

The manager said wearily, “M. Ashford, in a hotel of 
this size there is always at least one servant in the pay of 
some news agency or other. You must understand that 
we are trying to be lenient with you.** 

“If you will be lenient enough to have my account 
ready first thing in the morning, 1*11 ask no more favors 
of you,** Julian said curtly. 

He could almost see the man shrug. “Nothing would 
please us more, monsieur. Unfortunately our instruc¬ 
tions from the police are that you are not to leave. You 
may not have thought of it, but I doubt very much if 
there is another hotel in Nice that would accommodate 
you.** A note of humanity came into his voice. “Person¬ 
ally I am very sorry, but with the reputation of my hotel 
to think of, I cannot afford to be personal. Good night, 
M. Ashford.** He had replaced the receiver before Julian 
could reply. 

She was standing in the middle of the room with her 
arms stiffly by her sides. Obviously she had heard enough. 

“I*m terribly sorry, Penelope,** he mumbled. 

“Why be sorry? I only wonder that you are so sur¬ 
prised.** 

“I’m beginning to see what you mean.** Then he said 

67 



as if he were thinking of it carefully, “There’s something 
quite subtle about it, isn’t there? I mean about suspicion. 
You can try to ignore it or strike out at it, but it’s like 
striking at a fog. It’s still there to breathe into your 
lungs.” He turned to look out over the darkened empty 
bay. “I expect tomorrow the sightseers will be taking 
pictures of the hotel with an X to mark the room where 
we kept our love tryst on the night of the murder.” He 
turned back and put his hands on her arms. “I said I 
was sorry, Penelope, but you know I’m not. I would 
never have forgiven the inspector if he had let me get 
away from Nice.” 

She nodded. “When this is all over, you will be able 
to go away from Nice, and it will be a story to tell your 
friends. But don’t you remember what I really came here 
for was to collect my uncle’s clothes?” 

He had forgotten. Mr. Whitecliffe alive had been quite 
unimportant. His greatest adventure had begun only 
no^, after he was dead, when it had to be lived for him 
by others. 

“Very well,” he said. “I’ll pack his clothes.” 

“No, don’t bother, please. ... If you show me where 
they are.” She was very much Miss Whitecliffe. “I don’t 
want to bother you.” 

“Packing is a large part of my business,” he said. “I’ve 
been doing it all my life, either that or teaching a native 
boy how to do it.” Then he said gently, “Come with me, 
Penelope. Just for a little while it was his room. I’ll show 
you how he had arranged it.” 

He opened the door and switched on the light. They 
stood in the doorway without speaking. She looked 

68 



about, letting her eyes rest on one item after another, 
the careful, rather threadbare possessions of her uncle 
against the luxury of the room. 

“He would have loved it here,” she said softly. “He 
would have liked being waited on. He would have loved 
to say, ‘I'm staying in a little suite at the Ruhl. The 
view is rather wonderful and I must say they do take 
care of you. . . ” She t:overed her eyes with her hands. 

“He was cheated even of that.” 

Julian took the old-fashioned cases from the closet 
and opened them on the racks. “He was not cheated of 
it, Penelope. Believe me he was living every minute of 
it as he unpacked, and you know as well as I do that the 
anticipation is always more important than the reality. 
Nothing would really have lived up to his expectations. 
He would have begun to notice all sorts of things; how 
the waiters were slow and gave favors to those who paid 
for them.” He was talking quietly to divert her thoughts, 
and packing the bags as he talked. “I've lived in a cross 
section of these places. I don't like them very much. You 
live in them because your company feels that you should, 
as a matter of prestige. This suite . . . Tyler and I have 
lived in scores of them. It's always a relief to get away 
beyond them, away up into the country . . .” 

He had stopped speaking, and she saw that he was 
standing by the dressing table. He was standing very 
still holding a sheaf of papers in his hand. His face was 
rigid. He lifted his eyes from the papers. “Penelope,” he 
said, “I don't know if you have seen these letters. They 
were hidden in the folds of one of his shirts in this 


69 



drawer. I shouldn't have read them, but I couldn't help 
seeing the name." 

His manner frightened her. She reached out her hand 
and said, "I'll read them when I get home." 

"I think you should read them now." 

She took them reluctantly. She saw that the letter at 
the top was headed: Sangerson and Whylie: Detective 
Agency; and it was addressed to her uncle. 

Dear Sir: 

Ref: Raoul de Wollfe 

We are now in a position to give you the final re¬ 
sults of our exhaustive investigations into the back¬ 
ground of the above person. As far as can be ascer¬ 
tained, he is a highly respected citizen in that his 
credit in the City of London is good. There are no 
judgment summonses out against him. He has never 
been a bankrupt. He is a member of two exclusive 
clubs, the James and the Irony. But he did not, as you 
say he claims, ever attend any colleges at Oxford Uni¬ 
versity, or any of the better-known public schools. 
This we may warn you is not unusual in self-made 
men and we find in the routine of our business that 
the claims are looked upon tolerantly, even by 4hose 
whose schools they claim to have attended. It may 
help you as evidence of character, but in no way, we 
are afraid, beyond that. 

With regard to Mrs. de Wollfe, you will find that 
our earlier advice to you, as result of pur wide experi¬ 
ence, has borne fruit. As you will see by our appended 
charges, this has not been within the schedule we first 


70 



thought reasonable, but as the inquiry took us to the 
other side of the world, you will understand that the 
costs must necessarily have mounted. The appended 
account and the detailed expenses of the inquiry will 
inform you of how your money was disbursed. 

You will study the details of our investigations as 
appended. But briefly the details are these: 

In 1947, at Paddington Registry office, London, 
Raoul de Wollfe was married to Risa Defont, who 
gave her birthplace as Governor Phillip Bay, Sydney, 
Australia. She described herself as a spinster. 

Our Australian investigator has now informed us 
that in 1939 this same Risa Defont was married to one 
Julian Clifford Ashford. There is no record of a 
divorce. 

He saw her lower the letter to her knees. It seemed 
that he could hear it fall. 

“Are you Julian Clifford Ashford?” 

He nodded. “Yes.” 

“Is it true . . . that you are not divorced?” 

“Quite true.” 

“You came here to meet your wife?” 

“I had not seen my wife for more than ten years. I 
had not the remotest idea where she was. The first knowl¬ 
edge I had that she was here was when she walked in to 
that ghastly interview we were having with the police. 
The inspector sent for Mrs. Raoul de Wollfe. Risa 
walked in and we were face to face. John Keeble intro¬ 
duced us and we exchanged pleasantries.” He looked 

71 



at her thoughtfully. ‘‘You don't believe me, do you, 
Penelope?" 

‘‘I don't suppose it matters whether I believe you or 
not." 

"It matters a great deal." 

Penelope faced him. "Perhaps the manager was right 
in not letting us have supper together. The situation is 
ratha: squalid." 

He could even understand how she felt. As she said it, 
it was squalid. "If you think you'll be tarnished by my 
company, I won't ask you to take the risk." He nodded 
toward the papers in her hand. "Not after that." 

The color flared into her cheeks. "If you think I be¬ 
lieve that my uncle was spying on you, you are wrong." 

He said dryly, "You must admit that the evidence 
suggests he was doing something very much like it." 

“I had no idea what he was doing. He told me that he 
had found a way of making De Wollfe stop interfering 
with my school." 

He said patiently, "But that isn't the point, is it? What 
he has done is to provide the police with enough evi¬ 
dence to have me convicted of murder." 

She backed away in horror. "That isn't possible?" 

"If you are the wise prudent girl, you will telephone 
the police now and tell them what you've found. Don't 
you know you'll be safe then?" 

Her frightened eyes were trying to read his face, but 
it was as calm and emotionless as his voice. "You are 
trying to frighten me. Why should they arrest you?" 

"What they want is a motive. We'll begin at the be¬ 
ginning. A few weeks ago a little boy came to your 

72 



school. Probably your uncle filled in his enrollment 
card.'' 

She nodded and whispered, “Yes, he did.'' 

“That, you see,, is the first link in the chain. Father's 
name: Julian Ciifford Ashford. Mother's name: Risa 
Ashford. Now where had your uncle heard those names 
before? But of course, they were all there as a result of 
his inquiries.'' 

She cried out in protest. “But it wasn't like that at 
alll I know him too well. He couldn't have kept a thing 
like that to himself!'' 

He shook his head. “He kept to himself the fact that 
he was employing detectives, Penelope.'' 

She answered soberly, “I know he did. That's because 
he knew that I would forbid it. He wanted to produce 
dramatic proof to me and everybody else that he was not 
a man to be trifled with.'' She stepped forward in her 
eagerness to be convincing. “Also I'm sure that within a 
day of getting those papers he had told somebody here in 
Nice about them. He wouldn't tell me because he'd 
know that I'd be furious. But he'd have to tell somebody, 
just to prove what a wonderful conspirator he was. I 
told you this morning, he was like a child.'' Penelope 
was like a child, too, he found himself thinking. She did 
not even realize how she was rushing to Julian Ash¬ 
ford's defense, convincing herself as she went along. 

But he said quietly, “We haven't finished the story 
yet. Nfr. Whitecliffe recognized the names on Tyler's en¬ 
rollment card. You will have to produce that evidence, 
Penelope, it will be important evidence, particularly as it 
has Risa's name on it.'' He went on, “Yod have to think 


73 



as the police think and any other sensible people would 
think. Your uncle comes to see me and tells me what he 
knows. I am quite sure that Tyler, who is a talkative kid, 
told him that I was going away and was looking for 
someone to take charge of him. Mr. WhiteclifiFe sees this 
as a God-sent opportunity. He comes along to apply for 
the post as tutor and guardian, and he makes it quite 
clear that it would be unwise of me not to employ him. 
He moves into my apartment almost before I am out of 
it, and within a matter of hours he is gambling with 
more money than ever he'd been known to possess. . . 

She dropped her hands to her sides and looked at him 
piteously. *'ls that what my uncle did ... Is that what 
he really did?” 

He shook his head. “No, that is not what he did. It is 
what the police will say he did. But you see he did move 
into a rather luxurious apartment and he did have 
money and he did know that a rich socialite who was 
known as Mrs. de Wollfe is really Mrs. Julian Ashford 
and he did employ a detective agency to produce all this 
information. You know, Penelope, any criminal lawyer 
in France would advise me to throw myself on the mercy 
of the court and plead that I had rid the world of a 
blackmailer. Risa, as my witness, would be perfect. She 
Would tell the court how war had separated her from 
her husband and her son, and how she had mourned 
them for dead, and how at last Raoul de Wollfe had 
offered her his love and security. She would say that she 
had never realized that all this time her husband and 
son were searching the world for her; she had not real¬ 
ized it till thiy blackmailer had come to me and threat¬ 
ened to bring Risa's world shattering to her feet, and I, 

74 



being the chivalrous gentleman, took the only course 
open to me. I killed him.*' 

She was looking at him oddly, doubtfully. "Do you 
hate her, Julian?" 

"I have finished hating her," he said flatly. "I found 
that I was destroying myself." 

"But do you really think she would go to court and 
say the things you say she could?" 

The lines were etched bitterly down his cheeks. "Cer¬ 
tainly she would. How else could Risa save herself?" 

"Would you save yourself in the same way?" she asked 
quietly. 

They were standing by the door of the narrow corridor 
that separated the two bedrooms. He opened the door 
to Tyler's room. 

"Look," he said. 

She came to his shoulder and stood looking down at 
the sleeping boy. He closed the door softly and guided 
her to the sitting room. Without speaking he poured her 
a drink and one for himself. He raised his glass. "This 
may be the last time we'll meet as friends. Bless you, 
Penelope." 

"Does that mean that you'd let my uncle be branded 
as a blackmailer just to save your own skin?" There was 
not so much scorn in her voice as bewilderment. 

He paused carefully. "You see, in the first place, your 
uncle did not try to blackmail me; and on the other 
hand I did not kill him. But with the evidence in their 
hands the police will not believe either one or the other. 
I'm not even trying to influence you. If I do what I will 
obviously be advised to do, I will blacken the memory of 
your uncle who was geptle and honorable. Without pre- 


75 



cisely saying so, I have permitted Tyler to grow up with 
the belief that his mother was dead, and somebody who 
was wonderful. He could accept her as somebody coming 
back from the dead. T\t protected him for so long alone 
that I imagine some people might think that my wish to 
have him respect me is almost unhealthy. But then, you 
know, we have lived an unusual life.” 

She put her untasted glass on the table. “What are 
you going to do?” 

He picked up her handbag from the table. Then he 
took the sheaf of letters that she was still holding in her 
hand. He opened the bag and put them inside and 
handed it to her. “As I said, Penelope, if you are a 
sensible girl you will ring the police.” He picked up her 
coat and put it over her shoulders. “But you must decide 
for yourself. I am entirely in your hands.” 

“Why are you leaving all this to me?” 

“IVe told you the truth. What more can I do?” 

“Would you have said that my uncle was blackmailing 
you?” 

“I explained to you what difference would it make. 
Your uncle is dead and can't be a witness. Everybody 
would assume that it was obvious.” 

“Would you have said it?” she persisted. 

“No, Penelope, if it's a matter of academic interest to 
you, I would not have said it.” He smiled his slow smile. 
“But you realize I should just as easily have said I would. 
What more can I do?” 

She backed to the door, looking defiant and young. 
“I have to find out who murdered my uncle,” she said. “I 
thought you might help me.” 


76 



CHAPTER SEVEN 



ELP her to find the murderer: he knew that he 


had no alternative. Sooner or later the police would 
decide to delve into the past of their suspects. It would 
all come out then, the whole sorry tale. Tyler would have 
to know about it, and he did not want his son to know 
about the past. Between them they had created a better 
past. . . . 

He closed the last of Mr. Whitecliffe's suitcases as the 


porter came for the luggage. He knew it belonged to the 
man who had been murdered, who had by his death 
become a sensation. He treated it with subtle respect as 
if it had become dramatic in its own right. 

Tyler, with his schoolbooks under his arm, joined his 
father in the little procession to the elevator. They had 
formed up in the same kind of procession dozens of 
times, leaving trains, leaving aircraft, leaving hotels, leav¬ 
ing ships. It was almost a ritual. Have you left anything? 
Did you look in the bathroom? the closets? the draw'ers? 
You are leaving everything as impersonal as you found 
it, an unmade bed, an ashtray with discarded cigarettes. 


77 



the discarded newspaper. You pause at the door and 
look back. There was no hint of your identity except 
discarded trash. In another hour the room will be sleek 
and smug and discreet, waiting for the next customer. 

“Have you forgotten anything, daddy?" 

It was odd that Tyler should underline his thoughts, 
but then, of course, that was what they always asked 
each other. 

“I don’t think so, Tyler. But this time is not us, Tyler. 
We aren’t leaving.’’ 

^ “I know, daddy, but did you pack his pipes? He must 
have liked them because he put them out awfully care¬ 
fully on his dressing table.’’ 

“Were you watching him unpack, Tyler?’’ 

“Of course. He wasn’t used to hotels. I was telling him 
where to put things so that you can find them again 
quickly when leaving.’’ 

“I think I got everything.’’ 

“I hope you didn’t miss his secret letters, daddy.’’ 

They were in the elevator and it seemed to Julian 
that the ears of the hotel servants grew larger. 

“Secret letters?’’ 

“Yes. There was a bundle of them. He hid them with 
his shirts when he was unpacking. He looked over his 
shoulder at me while he was doing it, but I could see 
quite clearly/* 

Julian smiled at the porter. “I wonder if you’d go 
back to my suite when you have time and see if I left 
any secret letters behind.’’ 

The old man loaned himself readily to the project. 
“I will search everywhere, monsieur, every corner.’’ And 


78 



added with subtlety, **1 have a grandson of the same 
age.” He turned gravely to the little boy. “Could you 
describe fully these documents?” 

“Well,” Tyler said; “they were letters.” 

“Oh. When there is a murder one thinks of letters 
always. There must be letters. Trust me, I will search 
for them.” He exchanged an understanding nod with 
Julian. But he did search after they had gone and he 
reported the conversation to the police. 

True to her promise, Mrs. Tilford was waiting by the 
door. She looked from Tyler to Julian as if she judged 
them equally guilty. “Five minutes late,” she said 
bluntly. 

Julian said diflSdently, “I know, Mrs. Tilford, but I'm 
taking you to school in a taxi. You won't be late.” 

“Utter waste. The amount of money wasted on taxis 
because people are too. indolent to use normal transport 
is past belief.” 

He knew that her idea of normal transport was to 
Walk or, if it were more than twenty miles, to be a 
profligate and go by bus. “I have to take Mr. White- 
cliffe's suitcases back to his niece,” he said. “So we can 
all go together.” 

The school occupied what once had been a private 
house. A short, graveled walk led up to its high doors. 
The grounds were enclosed by a typically tall iron fence. 
The house had the faded grace of an old lady who could 
remember without malice a better world. On a polished 
brass plate by the door was written in three languages: 
Whitecliffe Language Schools. 

Also waiting as if to welcome them was John Keeble. 

79 



Mrs. Tilford confronted him. “Ha,” she said. “Punc¬ 
tual for once, I see.” 

He kissed her and he tried not to look pleased. “I 
wouldn't have dared be anything else.” He grinned and 
added, “I've been sent back to school.'* 

The taxi driver was dumping the suitcases on the 
porch. Mrs. Tilford pointed to them. “John, put these 
things in one of the cupboards in the hall. I don't want 
Penelope to see them now, they'll upset her and I don't 
want the servants to see them or they'll gossip. Put them 
away yourself.” She swung to Tyler. “Young man, the 
children's school is open. Be oflE with you.” 

“Yes, sir.” Man or wofnan, he called' everybody “sir” 
if they were firm enough with him. He looked fleetingly 
at his father. “ 'Bye, daddy.” Then he fled through the 
door. 

Julian looked at the old lady with interest. “Exactly 
how many people have you under your thumb in this 
establishment, Mrs. Tilford?” 

“I don't try to have people under my thumb,” she 
corrected him. “But I do hate disorder. For the time 
being, John Keeble is going to take the place of Penel¬ 
ope's uncle as professor of French. Furthermore, I have 
brought him here to take care of Penelope. She needs a 
man to protect her.” 

Suddenly she concentrated her attention on a young 
man who was Walking up the drive. “That,” she said, 
“if it could be of the slightest interest to anybody but 
myself, is my nephew Charles.” 

Charles Tilford was very well dressed in very untidy 
clothes. He needed a haircut, but his heavy blond hair 

80 



seemed to have learned by neglect to take care of itself. 
It curled negligently over his forehead. His weak intelli¬ 
gent face looked as if it had been handed down from 
father to son for a thousand years. 

He wandered up to them and said, “Aunt Helen, isn’t 
it too bad about Penelope’s tiresome old uncle? Did you 
hear?’’ 

She exploded. “Hear? Who but the halt and the dumb 
and the blind have not heard? Charles, listen carefully: 
this is Julian Ashford. He’s the father of Tyler.’’ 

“Tyler; oh yes, of course; very good sort. We’re in the 
same class ... I mean, of course, French. Absolute tiger 
for learning, if you ask me.’’ 

Belatedly he shook hands with Julian. “Happy to 
know you, sir.’’ Then suddenly he gave a gay amused 
laugh. “It would be funny, wouldn’t it, if your son and 
I met in the college sports. Don’t let him know it, but 
when I was at Oxford I set up a record for the high 
hurdles.’’ He gave his aunt a grin that obviously he knew 
she would find infuriating. “She won’t ever admit it, of 
course; but down here is the first time that Aunt Helen 
and I have ever lived together. Naturally we’re loving 
it.’’ He waved vaguely to them and walked into the 
school. 

His aunt watched him go. “It would be nice,’’ she 
said, “if I didn’t see everything that meant anything to 
me in that creature.’’ 

Julian looked at her and saw that she really did love 
him angrily and possessively. 

The adult students were coming up the path. Some 
hurried as if they had too little time, some shuffled with- 


81 



out spirit, as if they were afraid of what lay ahead of 
them. Some were young, and a number of others were 
past middle-age. On the faces of some of them there was 
the stamp of privation. They had come from all over 
Europe. France had given them asylum. But to live and 
work, you must speak. 

Julian paid off his cab and went to look for Penelope. 
He found that her office opened off one of the main 
classrooms. One section of it was glass so that she could 
see what was going on in the lecture room beyond. 

John was with her. “But, Penelope dear,“ he was say¬ 
ing. “I haven't got any clothes that are more suitable 
than these. What's wrong with them?" 

“Nothing," she said coldly. “Unless you want these 
people to take you seriously." She turned to Julian in a 
kind of despair. “Look at him. He and Mrs. Tilford 
talked me into having him here as a teacher, and look 
at the way he turns up for his first day." 

Julian smiled. “A mite on the gaudy side for a pro¬ 
fessor, perhaps?" 

“When I came to Nice," John said reasonably, “I had 
no notion that I was going to be a professor." 

“Honestly, John, have you the slightest idea about the 
courses we are teaching here?" 

He nodded. “I forgot to tell you that when I do a job, 
which thank heaven is not often, 1 do it properly. You 
see after Mrs. Tilford asked me, or rather ordered me to 
do this job, I came along last night to find out what it 
was all about. I must say I was agreeably surprised. The 
work you do here is really quite sound." 


82 



“Well. . . Penelope expended a breath that might 
have been either relief or a protest 

He glanced through the window. “It seems to me 
those people out there are beginning to feel they are 
paying for something they aren't getting. I feel I should 
start work.” 

He walked out through the door, and a moment later 
they saw him on the little raised platform confronting 
the students. They saw the interest of the class center on 
him, surprised, watching. He had the theatrical sense to 
wait, to suggest that he was as interested in them as they 
obviously were in him. 

Then he began to speak in simple French. His voice 
was conversational but it had a beautiful clarity. Even 
those who knew very little of the language were leaning 
forward, straining to understand him. He was walking 
up and down on the little platform. He had his hands 
in his pockets and he looked as if he were strolling and 
talking to a companion. 

“Learning a language,” he was saying, “is like making 
a friend. You do not expect to know all about him all 
at once, but the more you do know, the more you want 
to know. It's not just a question of being able to order 
your food or sell somebody a suit of clothes. It's the 
feeling that another world is opening up to you.” He 
stopped and grinned at an earnest little man at a desk 
close to him and said in German, “Have you the slight¬ 
est idea of what I am talking about?” 

The little man leaped to his feet beaming. “Yes, yes, 
of course. It is beautiful.” 

“I hope Miss WhiteclifiEe thinks so,” he said dryly, and 

83 



those who understood laughed and explained to their 
neighbors. 

“The arrogance of him/* Penelope was saying angrily 
as she closed the door to shut oflE the sound. “The com¬ 
plete and utter arrogance. I thought they would laugh at 
him.** 

Julian looked at her as she watched through the win¬ 
dow. “I don*t know if you have noticed,** he said. “But 
the only one who laughs at John is John himself.** 

She turned to face him as if he had said something 
revealing. “Yes,** she said slowly. “I hadn*t realized it. 
I thought he was going to be quite ridiculous. My uncle 
was a competent teacher . . . but it*s not the same thing. 
My uncle taught them French. Now they seem to think 
they are embarking on an adventure.** 

They watched the young man on the platform. He 
might look like any other playboy, but he was not. For 
one thing he had not told about Raoul de Wollfe and 
Risa. Then there was this business of coming to the 
school and preparing to take over; there was nothing 
slipshod about that. 

John finished his talk and got down from the plat¬ 
form. He watched the students, busy with their notes, 
and a second later he was standing smiling in the door¬ 
way. But he spoke diffidently in a way that was unlike 
his normal self-assurance. “I hope you won*t judge me 
on that one performance. Penny. At least, you must 
admit they didn*t laugh at my suit. After what you said, 
I was so nervous I could barely speak.** 

Penelope laughed. “You . . . nervous.** Then she saw 
that he was serious. His forehead was covered with per- 

84 



spiration. She put a hand on his arm and said impuh 
sively, ‘‘You were amazing. But if you hate it so much, 
please don't go on doing it . . . not for me.” 

He sat down and swept his handkerchief over his 
forehead. “Who else would I be doing it for? I'm sorry 
for those poor devils out there, but not sorry enough to 
waste my time on them.'' He stopped, remembering 
something else. “Furthermore, Penelope, why did you let 
me come here when there is a much better scholar right 
out there in the classroom?” 

She looked at him in amazement. “What are you talk¬ 
ing about? Those people are taking their first lessons in 
French.” 

He shook his head. “Out there, there is a man named 
Leon Topolski. When I was at the Sorbonne he was 
really studying. For his degree of Doctor of Literature 
he wrote a paper on the influence of the Moorish inva¬ 
sions on the Dialects of Southern France. He's that 
droopy-looking man sitting by himself right in the far 
comer of the room. He's wearing an awful brown suit 
and he has what's known as a sallow complexion and 
lank black hair.” He laughed. “To have Doctor Topol¬ 
ski listening to my performance was an ordeal.” 

Julian and Penelope moved to the window. All the 
students were busy over their notes; all but one. The 
man they easily recognized as Topolski was staring with 
intensity at the window where they were standing. He 
dropped his eyes abruptly to the papers on his desk. 

Penelope turned away in bewilderment. “But, of 
course, I know him. He's anxious to leam but he's hope¬ 
less. My uncle used to keep him back after the others. 


85 



to try and help him. He was born in Poland and the odd 
thing is that although he’s hopeless at French, he speaks 
English beautifully . . She broke oflE and some of the 
color left her face. 

John said dryly, “When I knew him in Paris, Penny, 
he couldn’t speak a word of English. Pretending that you 
can’t speak someone else’s language is a bit like listening 
at keyholes.” 

“But what is he doing here? If you are right, what's 
the point in this ridiculous pretense?” she asked desper¬ 
ately. 

“It might be an idea to find out,” John said. 


86 



CHAPTER EIGHT 


ULIAN ASHFORD walked in the bright sunlight 
down through the side street to the Jardin Albert, with 
its open-air Roman theatre and its children and old 
ladies, toward the glittering Mediterranean. He told 
himself that he was held there as a prisoner and that he 
was rebelling against it. But he was not telling himself 
the whole truth and he knew it. Not even an enforced 
stay need be a punishment in Nice. There is always that 
illusion that nothing matters very much. 

“Julian Ashford, how marvelous!” A woman whom he 
did not recognize jumped up from a table and caught 
his arm. “Don’t you remember—Claire Williams, but 
it’s Rogers now. It was in Singapore at the Club. Henry, 
here’s somebody from my past!” 

A man whom Julian thought was a rather nice middle- 
aged man got up from his chair. There was an air of 
resignation about him. He smiled and said, “Yes, of 
course. My name is Rogers.” 

In the Far East Julian had met dozens of women like 
Claire, the ones who came there to get a husband looking 


87 



for the lonely young men with bungalows and servants, 
and who were dreaming of white girls who would talk 
about home. Now quite obviously this Claire was drag¬ 
ging her reluctant husband about Europe. Before he 
could protest she had forced her husband to order him 
a drink. 

“Julian,” he heard her saying, “when I saw your pic¬ 
ture in the paper this morning I practically leaped out 
of bed.” 

“My picture in the paper.” He looked at her in be¬ 
wilderment. 

“But, of course, don't tell me you didn't know? My 
dear, you are quite famous. I saw people pointing you 
out as you came along and telling each other your name. 
If it hadn't been for that, I might have let you go by 
without seeing you.” She picked up a paper from the 
chair beside her. “Look, isn't it marvelous, gorgeous 
blonde and everything.” 

He looked at the picture. It was the one that had 
been taken in the hotel the night before. The awful 
thing was that he had his hand on Penelope's arm and 
was talking to her as if they had entered into some 
conspiracy. 

“Miss Penelope WhitecliflFe,” the caption read, “niece 
of the man who was murdered in mysterious circum¬ 
stances, with Julian Ashford who was removed from a 
Cairo-bound plane immediately after the killing. They 
subsequently spent the evening together in Mr. Ashford's 
suite. Lucky Mr. Ashford, or should we say, looking at 
that profile. Lucky Miss Whitecliffe.” 

He knew that this woman from the past was watching 


88 



him avidly. People at other tables were also watching, 
plaire was basking in the reflected limelight. This was 
the highlight of her European tour. Without expression 
he folded the page and handed it back to her. 

She was looking at him archly. “Is she as beautiful as 
she looks in the picture, Julian?” 

Julian: as if she were his dearest friend. “Miss White- 
cliffe is a very charming girl,” he said. 

She sighed. “Blondes, always blondes. Your wife was 
a blonde, wasn’t she?” 

“Yes.” He found himself hating the woman, hating 
the way she batted her eyelids at him in coy, sidelong 
inquiry. 

“We were all in an absolute dither of curiosity that 
time when you two broke up. But we never could find 
out what actually did happen, not even from the 
servants, and they know everything.” 

“I can imagine your frustration.” 

She put a hand on his arm. “Does it still hurt, Julian? 
I mean, don’t you like to talk about it, even now after 
all this time?” 

He finished his drink and stood up. “After all this 
time there must be very little left to talk about, very 
little that has not been said, I mean.” Then he asked, 
“You didn’t meet my wife, did you?” 

“No. Henry and I were on the Coast and you were 
up country; but of course Julian Ashford and his beau¬ 
tiful wife were quite famous—or didn't you know? But 
Henry, you met her, didn’t you?” 

Henry said stolidly, as if he realized that the subject 
were taboo, “No, dear, I don’t recall that I did.” 


89 



He wished he had not met them. The illusion of 
freedom he had had briefly was dispelled. He was aware 
now that people did recognize him and were watching 
him as he walked on the pavements. The photographers 
were interested in him. They knew where a good picture 
would bring good money. He knew too that from now 
on it would be the same with Penelope. They would 
be wanting to get another picture of them together— 
the niece of the dead man and the suspect with their 
heads together. 

“Haven't we something in common?" The voice had 
an amused drawl. He looked around and saw that Raoul 
de Wollfe was sauntering at his side. “I saw you were 
with a couple of friends. I didn't want to butt in." 

“They knew me in Burma or Malaya, I'm not sure 
which. I seem to be becoming a public figme." 

Raoul laughed. “You don't like it, do you? When 
you've lived in- places like this you'll learn to capitalize 
on it. The main thing is to get a reputation." 

“Even as a suspected murderer?" 

“Especially as a suspected murderer." He laughed. 
“Both of us. We'll sit here and drink together . . . two 
suspects comparing notes." He led the way to a table 
under a red and blue umbrella. “This is not the best 
place in Nice to have an aperitif; but it certainly is the 
most public." 

A photographer focused his camera and Rauol de 
Wollfe posed as if he were quite unaware of what was 
happening. 

“That will be quite good," he said and smiled. “But, 
of course, I can't hope to compete with the one you and 

90 



Penelope had in the paper this morning. That was a 
stroke of genius. If only I’d thought of it I might have 
posed with the dear girl myself.” He beckoned to the 
waiter. “But then, of course, I’m married, and there is 
always the possibility that Risa might not approve.” 

Julian wondered if there were some other meaning to 
what his companion said. It seemed to him that there 
were too many people knowing or making oblique 
references to his past. “The whole thing is very un¬ 
fortunate,” he said. “I’m sure your wife was embarrassed 
by that interview with the police.” 

Raoul laughed. “Risa? Good Lord, no. She was simply 
giving me a rap over the knuckles. My dear feller, Risa 
knew exactly what she was doing. She knew perfectly 
well that the police would never dare hold a man of my 
standing on the evidence they had against me.” He 
laughed. “I have a suspicion, which she more or less 
confirms, that that little act of yesterday was on your 
behalf, to switch just enough suspicion to me so that 
they would have to let you go.” 

“Mine?” Julian forced himself to look at his com¬ 
panion and express surprise. “Why on earth should she 
do that?” 

Raoul de Wollfe shrugged. “Why on earth? Don’t ask 
me to fathom a woman’s mind; sorry for you, perhaps, 
with an instinctive feeling that you had become em¬ 
broiled in something that was none of your business. 
You told her that you had a son alone here. Perhaps 
that was it. Risa, I am happy to say, is unpredictable. 
At the risk of sounding suburban, that’s why I love her.” 
He smiled confidently. “But the point is that she knew 


91 



perfectly well that I was not involved and that at worst 
I would come home later in a very irritated frame of 
mind. I may tell you that I got even with her by not 
coming home at all. I toured the harbor in my speed¬ 
boat—saw a gorgeous sunrise. A man must maintain 
his prestige.** 

Yes; Julian realized that it would be his prestige that 
would count. The social standing of Raoul de Wollfe 
would have to be maintained at all costs. He was like an 
actor with his public. Here now, sitting in the sun, 
looking with amused tolerance on the passing scene, he 
was playing a part and quite obviously enjoying the 
role of Raoul de Wollfe. 

He had not noticed that they had an intruder. But 
Julian saw that the student they had been talking about 
a little time ago was loitering by the table. Dr. Leon 
Topolski was standing like a servant waiting to catch 
the master*s attention. 

“Mr. de Wollfe.** 

Raoul looked up, and an expression of annoyance 
made it plain that this was an irritating guest. “Oh yes, 
Topolski,*’ he said. “What is the trouble?** 

Topolski did not exactly squirm. He looked servile 
and at the same time determined. “I would have liked 
a word with you, sir, in private.** 

Raoul de Wollfe was not pleased. “In private . . . 
what on earth could you have to say to me in private? 
You may not have noticed, but I am entertaining a 
guest. If you have a message for me or something you 
want to say, for heaven’s sake say it.** 

The student looked crushed but there was an under- 


92 



lying confidence. ‘‘I'm sorry," he said. “I was wondering 
if you had lost confidence in me at the school.” 

‘‘At the school? What on earth are you talking about?” 

Topolski's eyes slid to Julian and away again. ‘‘Mr. 
John Keeble appeared there this morning as a lecturer. 
I know that he's a friend of yours . . . and your wife's. 
I wondered . . .” 

De Wollfe leaned back in his chair, giving Topolski 
all his attention. ‘‘Now please, I know what you have 
been through, what you have suffered and all that sort 
of thing, but really this persecution mania of yours is 
becoming a little tiresome.” 

‘‘You are not trying to replace me, Mr. de Wollfe?” 
Without doubt there was a faint threat this time in his 
voice. 

‘‘Replace you? In what possible capacity would I want 
to replace you?” 

Topolski at close range looked even less prepossessing 
than he had at the school. He was not even clean and 
his features were set in sullen persistence. ‘‘I've done 
much for you in the past,” he said, and then with 
sudden venom, ‘‘If you refuse to listen to me. I'll go 
to your wife.” 

Raoul's lips drew back from his clenched teeth. He 
half rose from his chair, then suddenly relaxed and 
beckoned to a waiter. ‘‘Jules. I brought my friend here 
for an aperitif.” He nodded to Topolski. ‘‘I'm sorry 
to have to tell you that this man is annoying us.” 

‘‘Certainly, monsieur,” Jules said it in the same tone 
he would have used if he had been taking an order for 
a drink. He put his tray aside. He gave a little signal 


93 



and several other waiters appeared at his side. They 
stood together without speaking, waiting. Topolski 
looked from the men to De Wollfe and back again. 
Then he turned and almost ran down the steps and 
through the crowds onto the sidewalk. It was humili¬ 
ating, degrading. Julian Ashford felt a pity for him. A 
human being should not expose himself to such treat¬ 
ment. 

Raoul de Wollfe picked up his glass and looked at 
the light shining on the bubbles that rose to the surface 
of his drink. “That,'' he said, “is one of the penalties of 
trying to help somebody. I've done it scores of times and 
it always ends up in the same way. Probably ever since 
he was a small kid Topolski has been a fugitive from 
some damned regime or other. Somebody tosses them 
some small favor and immediately they are suspicious. 
What is behind that kindness? There must be something. 
What does he expect to get out of me? You see the point 
is, half of these people have never benefited by an act 
of disinterested kindness in their lives.'' 

“I see what you mean,'' Julian said. “But he didn't 
seem particularly grateful. He acted more like a man 
with a grudge.” 

Raoul de Wollfe sat watching the people go by, but 
he might not have been really seeing them. “I could 
kick myself for ever having anything to do with, the 
man,” he said finally. “It began in a quite simple way 
out of a ridiculous passion I have for fishing. I wanted 
to go to Finland and I found that Topolski spoke the 
language fluently. As an act of charity I sent this fellow 
to the country and I must say that he came back with 


94 



the whole thing arranged perfectly. It turned out to be 
one of the best trips IVe ever taken. I paid him off and 
expected that to be the end.” He shrugged. “But of 
course, with these people it never is. I asked him what 
he wanted to do. He said that he wanted to study the 
French language and be my secretary. 

“I did not need a secretary here. An idle secretary 
can very quickly develop into a spy: it's amazing how 
interested they can become in the private affairs of their 
employers. But there was a little work that he could do 
for me, part-time, certainly not enough to have him 
in my house all day. I said I would enroll him at the 
Whitecliffe school where he could study to his heart's 
content. I offered to pay for his fees and his keep, and 
in return he could work for me.” 

Raoul de Wollfe finished his drink at a gulp. “He 
misunderstood even that. Somehow he got the impres¬ 
sion that I had put him in the school to spy on Penelope. 
Ever since I put him there he has been sending the most 
minutely detailed reports of what goes on. Quite 
honestly, I've not had the heart to tell him to stop.” 

His tone was so conversational that for the moment 
Julian overlooked the obvious question. 

“But you were trying to buy the school, weren't you?” 

De Wollfe laughed. “You are quite right. I made no 
secret of it.” 

“And today he thought you had replaced him with 
John?” 

“That, you see, is what I mean about the disad¬ 
vantages of trying to employ a man like Leon Topolski. 
Today he saw John Keeble and immediately he thought 


95 



I was replacing him and he rushed down here to find me 
and make veiled threats.” He finished his drink. “It 
never would nor never could enter his mind that I 
might have been paying for him because I thought he 
would be happy there, and would be prepared to keep 
him there till I needed him. I shouldn’t be at all sur¬ 
prised if he has decided that one day he will have to 
kill me.” 

“Not a very nice way to repay a kindness.” 

De Wollfe shrugged. “He’s been vaguely useful. In 
these fishing trips of mine I travel to all sorts of places, 
and people write to me in the weirdest of languages. I 
turn them over to Topolski and he ferrets out their 
meaning.” He made the explanation as if he realized 
that Julian was too shrewd to believe that he could 
maintain Topolski entirely out of charity. “And I did 
tell him that I was interested in the school and I wanted 
him to report occasionally on how things were going.” 

Julian tried to keep a sudden feeling of distaste from 
reflecting in his voice. “Perhaps he felt he was serving 
you better as a spy than as a secretary,” he said. 


96 



CHAPTER NINE 


IJ HE key they handed him at the desk was not to 
the main door to his suite, but to his bedroom. As he 
came in he heard voices. Tyler was entertaining a 


visitor. 


Halfway across the room he stopped. 

“Your name is Tyler, you say; that's a nice name, 
but it's unusual, isn't it?" 

“It's a family name, you see. The oldest boy in the 
family is always called Tyler. Daddy's brother called 
Tyler was killed in the war, so I'm the only one left. 
In fact, daddy and I are the only ones left of any of our 
family.” 

There was a pause. Julian held his breath. The visitor 
said softly, “What happened to your mother, Tyler?” 

“Oh, she died.” 

“Don't you remember her?” 

“No, I was too little.” 

“I'm so sorry.” 

He said, “Oh, it doesn't matter. We get along well 


97 



by ourselves. Only I wish I could remember her. Daddy 
said she was beautiful.” 

“And good?” 

“Oh yes, of course.” 

“Have you got any pictures of your mother?” 

“No, we haven’t. You see, we had to run away from 
the Japanese and we couldn’t carry any pictures.” 

“Yes,” the voice said. “It was a complete break with 
the past, wasn’t it?” A brief laugh. “But complete.” 

The boy seemed to realize that no answer was ex¬ 
pected of him. 

“What time do you expect your father will be home, 
Tyler?” 

“Very soon.” He must have looked at the clock be¬ 
cause he said urgently, “It’s my bath time. Would you 
care to come to my room while I get ready or would 
you like to wait here?” 

“I think I’d like to see your room very much.” 

He seemed to hesitate. “It’s very untidy, I’m afraid. 
Mrs. Tilford says it’s like a pigsty.” 

“Why not? You can pretend to be a little pig and 
have a bath in your trough.” 

They were both laughing when Julian walked into 
the room. They both stopped laughing. 

“Daddy,” Tyler said, “this is Mrs. de Wollfe. She came 
to see you.” 

He put his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “Yes, of course,” 
he said. “We met yesterday afternoon I think.” He 
turned Tyler in the direction of the door. “I think I 
heard some mention of a bath,” he said. 

The little boy looked at his fslther. There were signs 


98 



and portents he alone could read. They told him 
whether an argument might or might not be rewarding. 
This time he decided not. He shook hands with the 
strange lady he had been entertaining and went without 
loss of dignity to his own room. 

They stood appraising each other, together and alone. 
“Julian,** she said, and repeated it with a little laugh. 
“How that name did not escape my lips yesterday after¬ 
noon I shall never know.** 

He found himself wondering why it was that today she 
looked more the Risa he had known. Perhaps it was 
deliberate. Her hair seemed loose and the make-up on 
her face softer, the clothes were not quite' so ... he 
could not think of a word for it. It was as if she had 
gone back halfway to meet him. 

“I came to thank you,** she said. 

He smiled at her. It was friendly, but there were no 
illusions. “No, Risa. Tell me really why you came?** 
“Should I remind you, Julian, that I am a mother?** 
“Curiosity?** 

“Partly. You have a very nice little boy. He told me 
that he had a very beautiful mother. Thank you, 
Julian.** 

“Did you come here to disillusion him?** 

“Darling, now is that kind?** 

“I*m sorry, Risa. You are beautiful.** 

“Thank you, I*m not trying to be reassured, but it*s 
becoming important.** 

“Because of Raoul?** 

She gave a little shnig. “Possibly. Naturally Raoul 
wants everything about him to be the best he can get. 


99 



You are quite clever, Julian, so I suppose you've guessed 
by now that what matters most to Raoul is his vanity." 
She stood looking at him, appraising him. ‘1 suppose," 
she said, "you would not be flattered if I told you you 
were the most attractive man I have ever met in my 
life." 

"Who wouldn't be flattered? But you see I know the 
facts, Risa." 

"Facts?" She gave a sudden savage twist to her 
shoulders. "Have you ever known what it is to be bored? 
I don't mean just being bored, but frightened, when 
you hear your life ticking away second by second, and 
you are surrounded by dreary people who talk hoUr 
after hour about people they pretend to know or scandal 
about people they do know, people with nothing what¬ 
ever to interest them." 

"You had Tyler." 

"Tyler." She laughed. "You fool, Julian, he meant 
less to me than he does now. The day he was bom 
his nurse took him away from me." Her voice rose in 
bitterness. "She brought him to me at feeding time 
as if I were a cow, and then took him away to love 
him and take care of him and do all the things 1 wanted 
to do and couldn't because they were taboo. I began to 
hate that feeding time because I began to realize that 
I was a little lower in his estimation than his nurse. 
Don't you remember how she used to walk about the 
bungalow as if it had been dedicated to Tyler, and 
hand him to me to feed and then take him away con¬ 
tented?" She shook her head as she looked at him. 


100 



“Julian dear, it would have been no use trying to ex¬ 
plain/' 

“I might have helped," he said. 

“I would have had to tell you how much I loathed 
the place and everything connected with it.” 

He nodded, realizing that this conversation was not 
taking place in the Far East but in Europe, in a hotel in 
Nice. They were back in the past. 

“Why did you come here this evening, Risa?” 

She shook her head. “I don't quite know. It was the 
most dangerously stupid thing I could have done, I 
suppose. But obviously there are things we have to say 
to each other without an audience." 

“There are less dangerous places to meet than in my 
apartment.” 

“I realize that, I thought it might be more dangerous 
to delay.” 

“Why, after ten years, should you think another day 
would be important?” 

“I thought you were dead,” she said. “I made in¬ 
quiries and they told me you were missing, both of 
you. There was no record of you being taken to any of 
the prison camps. The idea that you might escape carry¬ 
ing a baby seemed ridiculous. I knew you wouldn't leave 
him behind.” 

“You should have remembered that I knew the 
country pretty well. I took a gun with me and we lived 
off the jungle. We walked to India. It was quite a long 
way.” 

She nodded slowly. ”Y;es, I suppose I should have 
realized that you would get away somehow.” Her tone 


101 



gave the impression that he had somehow cheated her. 

“Did you tell Raoul that you had lived in Burma?” 
he asked. 

“I didn't even tell him I had been within a thousand 
miles of the place. Till I walked into that room yes ter; 
day I had even forgotten it myself. If anyone from 
those days pretended to know me, I would simply say 
that I had never set eyes on them in my life.” She 
shrugged contemptuously. 

“As a matter of interest, Risa, why did you marry 
De Wollfe under your maiden name? That was a 
dangerous thing to do.” 

A nerve at one comer of her lips twitched spas¬ 
modically. She took a step closer to him. “So you have 
been spying on me, Julian?” 

“Not at all.” 

“Why did you come to Nice?” 

He said, “It's quite simple. Ever since he was born, 
Tyler and I have been living in the tropics. With a 
belated sense of responsibility, I decided that it was time 
he began to be educated. I could have sent him to the 
school I went to in England, but I remembered how 
cold it used to be in the dormitories and I thought 
that for a kid born in the tropics it would be hell. 
Rightly or wrongly, I decided to compromise on a school 
down here. If I had known you were here, we would 
have stayed away.” 

She was not convinced. “You always did know more 
than you admitted, didn't you, Julian? How did you 
know I married Raoul under my maiden name?” 

He shook his head. “I can't tell you that, or rather 


102 



I won’t tell you. Tell me, Risa, does Tyler mean any¬ 
thing to you?" 

She paused, obviously posing the question to herself. 
"I told you, Julian, he seems a nice little boy, nothing 
more." She looked at him speculatively. "Did you think 
he would? I mean was that the reason you brought him 
here, that having him near would be a torture to me?" 
Her voice hardened. "I thought I explained that to you; 
the wonderful nurse you found for him stole him from 
me on the day he was bom." 

He nodded. "I can understand that you might feel 
like that, but you see, Risa, I don’t feel that way about 
him. I heard him say that his mother was dead. Do you 
honestly think I would want to bring you back from 
the dead with all the unhappy history that would go 
with the resurrection?” 

A look of relief made her look younger, more eager. 
"You always were rather a darling, Julian. We can keep 
this between ourselves. I’m sure we can." She laughed. 
"It will be rather fun really, having people introduce 
us as complete strangers, and we’ll make nice polite 
conversation, and you’ll know and I’ll know how awfully 
funny it is, but nobody else will." She looked at him 
as if she were looking into her own memory. "I’ll look 
at you, Julian, and not a single person in the room 
will be able to realize that I’m thinking how much we 
used to love each other, and nobody will know what 
nice churned up feelings I have inside." 

She was reassured now, and the situation was not one 
of fear but delightful danger. She laid a hand in a 
caress on his cheek. "Julian, when we’ve been introduced 


103 



a few times. I'll become possessive and I'll say to women, 
‘Have you met this delightful savage who has come 
from somewhere or other in the wilderness?' And 
darling, you'll be there looking so unbelievably attrac¬ 
tive as you always do, and you and I will be laughing 
deep down inside and even Raoul will be jealous." 

He knew Risa and he knew that what she proposed 
would be on the highest level of amusement for her. 
When she was excited, her. excitement was infectious. 
He felt cruel as he replied to her. "There is one thing 
wrong with this idea. You and I are not the only ones 
here who know about the past." 

She backed away from him. "You've told already?" 

"No, Risa. I don't want this to be known any more 
than you do. I'm sorry, but what is happening here is 
no fault of mine." 

Anger flamed in her cheeks. "Why did you come here 
—why did you, of all people? Why did you have to em¬ 
ploy that dreadful old man who was murdered? You 
could have gone away and nobody would have been the 
wiser; but no, you had to involve yourself in a murder. 
Now you tell me that other people here know about our 
past. Julian, why did you let that man come into your 
apartment and pry into your private affairs?" 

It was an astonishing accusation. "Risa," he said, 
"why should the unfortunate man pry into my private 
life? All he wanted was a chance to earn some extra 
money and to live in a suite in a fashionable hotel." 

She dropped her hands by her sides. "Did you take 
any trouble to hide your private papers from him?" 

"I have no private papers to hide." 

104 



“Your marriage certificate, for instance? Tyler’s birth 
certificate?” 

He said patiently, “Risa, when you set out to carry a 
baby through a jungle infested with Japanese, you don’t 
carry a bundle of documents. You carry quinine and a 
rifle and some basic food, not the birth certificate and 
marriage lines. At the time I set out I thought there was 
very little hope of either of us needing them.” 

“There must have been something.” 

“There was nothing in my possession to link Tyler 
and me with you.” 

“But you said there were people who know about us.” 

He nodded. “There are . . . two at least.” 

“Who are they? I have to know who they are.” 

“No, Risa. It wouldn’t help you to know.” 

Her hands were clenched and her body stiffened as 
if she found the strain of keeping control almost beyond 
endurance. But her voice was quiet, almost casual. “I 
think I understand, Julian. You told me there are two 
people, and you won’t name them. You want me to look 
at everybody with suspicion. You want me to feel that 
everybody I meet is watching me, watching and waiting. 
Is that your idea of punishing me? For ten years you 
have been hunting me down.” 

“That is not true,” he said patiently. “Risa, don’t you 
think the simplest thing to do would be to go back to 
Raoul and tell him the truth about this mess? He loves 
you, doesn’t he? At least it seemed obviqus to me that he 
does.” 

She nodded. “Yes, he loves me; but not so much as he 
loves himself. To have to acknowledge that I’ve been 


105 



deceiving him would be more than he could bear. He 
would think of everything that had happened; he'd 
realize that the people who had claimed to know me 
really have. He'd torture himself with the thought that 
people had been laughing at him behind his back." 
She paused and looked at Julian, and her tone when 
she spoke again was almost resentful. “All your life you 
have been able to behave naturally, haven't you?" 

He was surprised. “I suppose I have, but why not?" 

“Exactly, why not? You were born to be like you are. 
That's why you will never understand Raoul. Raoul 
gives the impression that he went to Harrow and Cam¬ 
bridge. Actually his father was a hairdresser, and his 
first job was working behind the counter in a depart¬ 
ment store. Do you find anything distasteful about 
that, Julian?" 

“Of course not. There's nothing shameful about it." 

“To Raoul there is. If he realized that I knew, I think 
he would hate me. I found out by accident. That's why 
I understand him; he has a past that he wants to hide. 
He has built himself up piece by piece into somebody 
he wants to be, into something that he's not. That's 
why he's had to be so careful all the time, careful about 
his clothes and his hair and his voice, and guard against 
the awful feeling that if somebody shouted at him he 
might turn around and call them “sir." You'd never 
understand what appearances mean to Raoul, because 
you couldn't. I do and I think that's why I love him. 
It's fantastic, isn't it, loving a man because of things 
he doesn't ever want you to know about?" 

She was really beautiful as she stood there defending 


106 



him, explaining him. She was not only pleading for 
Raoul de Wollfe but, without knowing it, pleading 
for herself. 

He walked to the window and stood looking down 
over the lighted Promenade and thinking back over the 
tangled wreck of their lives. He had every reason to hate 
Risa and he did not. Yet she had told him that Raoul 
would hate her if she told him, even in her own glossed- 
over version, something of her story. 

“Risa,” he said, “do you think if I told him about 
us it would help you? I could leave out everything ex¬ 
cept the bare facts that he would have to know. I could 
say that you had gone on a holiday to Sydney and that 
while you were away everything happened. The Japanese 
invasion had come and Tyler and I had been engulfed 
in it; I could tell him that as there was no record of us 
in the prison camps there was only one chance in a 
million that we were alive. I could tell him that you 
took your maiden name because you wanted to shut 
out the nightmare from your mind, and that by the 
time you met him and fell in love with him, Tyler and 
I and the past had ceased to exist.” 

She replied and her voice was deathly cold. “Have 
you had that in your mind all the time? Is that what 
you came here for?” 

He looked at her in surprise. Her face was white and 
still. “Risa, what are you talking about?” 

“Don't you know? I think you would like to watch 
Raoul's life collapse as you told him your story.” 

“Risa,” he said, “that's utter nonsense and you know 
iti” 


107 



He might not have spoken. “But you’ve overlooked 
something. We've talked a lot about the life I'm living 
and What it means to me, but you seem to have for¬ 
gotten your own life. Your son loves you very much, 
doesn't he, Julian?" 

He tried to be light about it. “I hope so, but now and 
then I think I'm a bit of an optimist." 

“Well, let me reassure you he does. He made it clear 
to me tonight that he thinks you are a kind of god. So 
it amounts to this, Julian: if you raise a finger to try 
to interfere with my life, I promise you he won't have 
any illusions about either of us." She picked up her bag 
from the chair where she had been sitting when Tyler 
had entertained her. “You asked me several times why 
I came here at such a risk, Julian. Now you know." 
She walked to the door and turned. “I don't believe 
there are two other people in Nice who know about 
you and me, and if Raoul learns anything about our 
past. I'll know where he learned it. You can go to 
Raoul if you think you can gain anything by it. But 
you'll find that his views are the same as mine, only 
they'll be more violent." 

She walked out and closed the door quietly behind 
her. 

He went into his son's room. Tyler was out of the 
bath and drying himself industriously. 

“Who was that lady, daddy?" 

“Just somebody I know." 

“What did she come to see you about?" 

“Oh, just to talk. Did you like her, Tyler?" 

“Yes," he said. “She was very nice." He thought a 


108 



moment and said seriously, “You’d better be careful of 
that lady, daddy.” 

“Why is that?” 

“Well, she asked me so many questions about you, I 
think she might want to marry you.” 

He thrust his hand through the boy’s wet hair. “If you 
think any woman would want to relieve me of the re¬ 
sponsibility of looking after you, my friend, you must 
be crazy.” 

Tyler looked relieved. “That’s what I thought. She 
wouldn’t want to be bothered with a little boy, would 
she?” 

“Good heavens, nol Let's wait till we find someone 
who’ll fall in love with us both.” 

The boy laughed happily. “That’s a very good idea 
because it will never happen.” 


109 



CHAPTER TEN 


m NSPECTOR Henri Vernier and his clerk arrived the 
next morning at half-past ten. They had taken the pre¬ 
caution of warning him not to leave the suite. 

The clerk established himself at a table in the comer 
of the room and put three beautifully sharpened pencils 
beside a blank pad. Inspector Vernier looked at the 
room, the view from the windows, and Julian Ashford, 
all with the same air of vague distaste. His limp cigarette 
dangled from his lips like a piece of soiled string. 

“So this is where you had planned to put him,” he 
said. Julian knew that he would be referring to the late 
Mr. WhitecliflEe. 

“Yes, he w^is going to stay here while I was away.” 

“I am not perhaps accustomed to thinking of money 
in the terms that you do, Mr. Ashford, but it does seem 
a lavish establishment for a tutor.” 

“If I had had more time, I would have arranged some¬ 
thing less expensive,” Julian said. 

“But you would have paid for Mr. Whitecliffe to live 
here in luxury for as long as you stayed away.” 


110 



Julian smiled. “I see what you mean. I engaged him 
and established him in all this luxury and then at the 
last moment in a fit of meanness I decided that it would 
be a great saving if I killed him.” 

“He had already moved into this apartment, had he 
not?” 

“Yes. He brought his bags around here sometime in 
the morning, 1 understand. He must have unpacked as 
soon as I moved out.” 

“Where are his things now, Mr. Ashford?” 

“Well, naturally enough, I packed them up and took 
them back to his niece.” 

“Without asking my permission?” 

“Should I have done that?” 

“Naturally. When did you do this?” 

“I took them round yesterday morning.” 

“But the packing—^when did you do that?” 

“Most of it the night before last. I had to have room 
for my own things.” 

“Did you do the packing yourself?” 

“Of course. I travel a great deal. One becomes adept 
at it.” 

“You had no help?” 

Julian looked surprised. “No. I suppose I could have 
had one of the floor servants do it, but it didn't occur 
to me to bother.” 

Vernier looked at him as if he were being stupidly 
evasive. “I was not thinking of the servants. I was think¬ 
ing of Miss Whitecliffe, monsieur. She was here.” 

Julian said irritably, “Of course she was here. When 
you were interviewing us you heard her say that she 


111 



would bring my son back to the hotel. There was a 
picture ih one of the papers yesterday morning to prove 
that she arrived." 

Inspector Vernier waited while the clerk caught up 
with his notes. "I was thinking of a second visit, Mr. 
Ashford, the intimate one, when you tried to order 
supper for two in your suite and failed." His tone was 
deliberately contemptuous. "When the niece of the 
murdered man and one of the principal suspects thought 
they would have a little celebration." 

It was no pleasure to have to explain. "Miss White- 
cliffe came here because she had had to go away before 
I came back that afternoon, and leave my son in the 
care of someone else." 

"She could have telephoned. That would have been 
more discreet." 

Julian said, "You are more likely to be discreet when 
you have a sense of guilt. She was worried that her 
uncle's belongings would be in my way . . ." 

"And so after she came here you packed them?" 

"Yes, while she was here." 

"She helped you?" 

"No, I told you I didn't need help." 

"Where was Miss Whitecliffe while you were doing 
this packing?" 

"I think she was talking to me." 

"Was she in your bedroom?" 

"Of course. It would be foolish to try to talk through 
the wall." 

The inspector pulled away the cigarette from his 
lower lip. He performed the operation carefully because 


112 



the paper was stuck to the skin. But that was obviously 
something he had expected. A fragment of white paper 
remained glued to his purple lip. It danced as he spoke. 
“Miss WhitecliflEe must have seen the papers you found.’* 

Julian knew that this had been coming. “Yes,” he 
said casually. “I don’t see why she shouldn’t.*’ 

“Did she see what you did with them, monsieur?’’ 

“Of course. I tried to do it as tidily as I could. You 
know how it is with other people’s things. I put the 
papers in his dispatch case. There were several novels, 
I think, and some school textbooks. You’ll find them. 
I’m sure I put them in, but where I’m afraid I can’t 
tell you. Is there something that I should particularly 
have noticed?’’ 

Henri Vernier lifted his lids to stare out of his smoke- 
stained eyes. “Yes, monsieur. The papers your son was 
so excited about, those that he hid so carefully in his 
folded shirts.’’ 

Julian laughed. “I think I’d better explain Tyler. 
This is his first murder case. Inspector. And if you want 
to keep on the path of reason, you will not call upon 
the services of my son. If you do, I warn you that you 
may begin to suspect that you committed this murder 
yourself.’’ 

The inspector’s lower lip protruded and pressed firmly 
against the upper one. He did not smile. “And Mr. 
Whitecliffe’s belongings; did his niece take them away 
with her?’’ 

“No,’’ Julian said. “I thought if we had taken them 
downstairs that night it might have caused some com¬ 
ment.’’ 


113 



“You might have thought of that aspect before you 
invited the lady to your suite,” the inspector said dryly. 
“You are ready to swear that Miss Whitecliffe did not 
take any papers from here?” 

“I am ready to swear that Miss WhiteclifiEe had no part 
whatever in packing her uncle’s things and that she 
was never in this room alone.” 

“It seems that you are ready to swear to almost everyr 
thing, Mr. Ashford. But you’ve forgotten that Miss 
Whitecliffe was here alone with your boy, at the same 
time that you were forgetting that you had come back 
to the Casino.” 

It was perfectly true. For a stupid moment he had 
forgotten. 

The inspector took up his black hat and signaled to 
his clerk. “We will go to the school, Mr. Ashford. Your 
memory may improve with Miss Whitecliffe to prompt 
you. Come with us.” 


Penelope turned white as she saw them come into her 
room, Julian and the police officers, on either side of 
him. 

He smiled. “They haven’t actually arrested me,” he 
said. “At least I don’t think they have.” 

The inspector put his black hat on Penelope’s desk. 
The gesture gave the impression that he had come to 
take charge. He looked round with unhurried interest. 
The clerk, as usual, found himself an unobtrusive posi¬ 
tion in the background. The inspector walked to the 
glass panel and looked out into the classroom. He saw 


114 



John lecturing and turned with a look of inquiry on 
his face to Penelope, but before she could explain he 
had turned back to watch the classroom. He watched 
John for a while and then he gave his attention to the 
class. His eyes traveled back and forth along the rows, 
pausing at each face as if to impress it on his memory. 
The students had seen him and were watching curiously. 
One of the few exceptions was Leon Topolski. His head 
was bent over his notes. All that the inspector could see 
was the lank hair that fell down over his eyes, and the 
top of his curiously shaped head. But Vernier gave him 
more attention than he had given the others, and as he 
watched he passed his long fingers caressingly over his 
chin. 

John Keeble saw that his pupils had lost interest in 
what he was saying. He turned and saw Inspector 
Vernier standing like a figure of ill-omen, staring 
through the glass. He waved and grinned cheerfully. 

Inspector Vernier swung away from the window with 
an angry flush on his face. He said abruptly to Penelope, 
“Why did you bring your uncle's belongings away from 
the hotel without my authority?” 

She looked at him in bewilderment. “But why not? 
You said nothing about leaving them there. The room 
belonged to Mr. Ashford. I knew he would be wanting 
it.” 

“You are very solicitous about Mr. Ashford. Par¬ 
ticularly as you ask us to believe that you met him so 
recently.” 

Julian stepped forward, but Penelope spoke first. She 

115 



said stiffly, “I know you have your duty to do; otherwise 
this would be unforgivable.” 

He was not perturbed. An angry girl is often an in¬ 
discreet one. “As I understand it, he has entertained you 
twice. In his sitting room in the morning and in his 
bedroom in the evening.” 

Penelope turned to Julian in bewilderment. “You 
told him that?” 

He shook his head warning her. “I think,” he said, 
“the inspector would be happy to create what he would 
consider an atmosphere between us. He thinks it would 
make his work easier. I told him that you talked to me 
while I was packing your uncle's clothes.” 

Vernier turned to him angrily. “Are you trying to 
warn Miss Whitecliffe that that is how you explained 
her presence in your bedroom?” 

Julian said easily, “Inspector, I don't have to explain 
her presence there. I told you why she was there.” 

“Ah yes, of course, she was helping you with the 
packing, is that so. Miss WhitecliflEe?” 

“No,” Julian said it flatly, before Penelope could 
reply. 

“I asked Miss Whitecliffe.” 

“No,” she said, but without the same conviction. It 
was as if she suspected that he was setting a trap for 
them. “No, Mr. Ashford said he knew much more about 
packing a man's cases than I did.” 

“And you?” 

“I watched him.” 

“All the time?” 

“Yes, I sat on the bedroom chair and watched him 


116 



packing the cases.” She smiled faintly. “He was not 
better at packing clothes than I am, but much quicker.” 

“Was he so quick that you failed to see him take the 
papers that were hidden in with the linen, Miss White- 
clifEe?” 

There was a pause. Neither of them looked at the 
other. Then Julian heard Penelope ask as if she were 
puzzled, “Was it his laundry bill you were looking for. 
Inspector?” 

“Laundry bill?” Vernier’s voice suggested that he had 
reached the limit of frustration. “Why, mademoiselle, 
should I be looking for a laundry bill?” 

“I don’t know,” she said. “But if you were looking 
for a paper between his clean shirts it would be that. 
It was a funny habit he had. He thought it was very 
businesslike. When he had worn so many shirts, six I 
think it always was, he would find the bill. That would 
remind him that it was time to pack up his laundry 
and also to pay the bill. He thought it was very clever. 
He had all sorts of little systems that other people 
would have thought ridiculous. But you see he was a 
bachelor and he had lots of prim little ways of doing 
things. That was one of them. He would count six 
shirts in his drawer and then he would tuck the bill 
under the sixth and he would say, ‘There, Penelope, 
how many of your efl&cient housewives would think of 
a simple device like that?’ ” 

There was silence in the room, and then Penelope 
asked, “Did you find the bill, Mr. Ashford? Is that what 
the inspector is worrying about?” 

“No,” Julian said. “I didn’t find one. But you see I 

117 



didn't move the shirts one at a time. I suppose it's still 
there." 

Inspector Vernier looked at his clerk. The young man's 
face was completely blank. Whether or not he thought 
that his chief had been making a fool of himself, he 
was far too wise to betray. But he did think he had 
taken a lot of notes on the subject of a laundry bill. 
And the little boy's father had warned them. The child 
would see something dramatic in a paper slipped care¬ 
fully into such a hiding place. The young man had his 
own ideas as to who the murderer was; but he had 
learned in a hard school that it was not his business 
to have theories, but to sit still and take notes and 
watch. And watching, he saw Julian reach out and grasp 
Penelope's hand briefly in a gesture of gratitude or love 
or reassurance. 

Normally, Inspector Vernier would have resented the 
way John walked into the room, but now he found him 
almost a welcome diversion. 

"Tableau," John said. "Two innocents defying the 
tyranny of the law." He walked over to the inspector 
and tapped him on the chest. "And as to you, my 
friend, in future be good enough not to stare at my 
students through that glass. They get the impression 
they are in an aquarium." 

"So you have found other work to do, Mr. Keeble?" 

John said, "You make it sound so much like an 
accusation. Inspector." 

"When last I saw you, you gave me the impression 
that you were doing something different." He turned 
to Penelope. "Tell me why I find that immediately 


118 



after your uncle is killed you have employed Mr. 
Keeble?” 

For some odd reason she looked not at John but at 
Julian as if she felt she had to explain to him or have 
him understand. ‘‘When my uncle died/’ she said, “there 
was no one to take this class. John . . . Mr. Keeble said 
he would take it.” She added defensively, “It’s not easy 
to get a replacement at short notice. Generally it takes 
weeks interviewing people, taking up references . . . this 
was an emergency.’’ The inspector looked exasperatedly 
from one to the other of them, then turned suddenly to 
Penelope. “I would like to see what you have in your 
safe.’’ He pointed to a ponderous aflEair that was stand¬ 
ing in the corner. 

She hesitated a moment, then walked over and opened 
the door and stood aside. 

He went through the contents as expertly as a customs 
officer searching for contraband. The contents were 
orderly, mainly books and documents. 

He took out a steel box and carried it to the desk. 
“This is locked.’’ 

“There is money in it.’’ Penelope took the key from 
her desk and handed it to him. 

He opened the lid and began taking out the money. 
It was in a dozen diflEerent currencies, ranging from 
dollars to Indian rupees. 

“I had no idea you were a money changer,’’ he said. 
“I had thought this was a school.’’ 

She flushed, but said quietly, “This is an international 
school. The people come from everywhere. We try to 


119 



help them by letting them pay for their tuition in their 
own currencies/* 

“You must be prosperous. There is a lot of money 
here.** 

“This is the beginning of the new term,** she said. 
“The students have been paying their fees. Usually we 
bank our money every day. My uncle used to do that. 
It made him feel . . . well, that he was part of the or¬ 
ganization and not just one of the teaching stafiE.** 

Vernier was arranging the diflEerent currencies in 
orderly stacks on the desk. He counted each and dictated 
the totals to his clerk. Over his shoulder he said, “I will 
be sending an accountant to check your books. Miss 
Whitecliffe. We will see if his examination checks with 
this.** 

She gave a short gasp. “Not all of that money belongs 
to usi*’ she said. “Sometimes the students give it to us 
for safekeeping.** 

“You don*t keep an account of these sums?** 

“Yes, of course. Sometimes, though, if I am very busy 
I just scribble out a receipt for them and enter it after¬ 
ward.** 

“Can you give me one specific instance?** Obviously 
he did not believe her. “I see. So that will be your 
answer when we find that your books do not explain 
the mohey you have here.** 

She nodded wearily. “I suppose so. There could be no 
other explanation.** 

“This money the students give you? Do they give you 
large sums?** 

“Sometimes all the money they have in the world.** 


120 



“You don't explain that it would be safer in a bank?" 

She shook her head. “You don't know my students. 
They have been fugitives so long that they associate 
banks with the government of their enemies." 

He stopped counting and looked at her over his 
shoulder. “I know some of these students a good deal 
better than you think, Miss Whitecliffe. You may find, 
or I may find, that they are hiding their money here, 
not because they are afraid erf their political enemies, 
but because they are afraid of the police. To act as 
banker for criminals is a serious matter." He turned 
back to his counting. To the three watching him, the 
movement of his fingers seemed to be deliberately slow. 

He left the pile of dollars till all the others had been 
counted and set aside. He picked up the sheaf and 
weighed it in his hand and turned around. “You seem 
to have a number of Americans in your classes. Miss 
Wl^itecliffe?" 

“Yes, we have Americans." She saw the implication of 
his comment as he weighed the bills in his hands and 
said quickly, “But not all that money comes from my 
American students. All of them, all of the European 
students, try to collect a few American dollars. They 
regard them as a kind of passport to freedom." 

He watched as she finished speaking, still absently 
weighing the money in his hand. “I had always thought 
of you. Miss Whitecliffe, as a romantic, foolish girl who 
refused to give up something that had been precious 
to her father. But I realize now that perhaps I mis¬ 
judged you. You have found a plausible answer to every 
question I have asked you." 


121 



Julian Ashford said, “What do you find so baffling 
about the truth. Inspector?” He had seen the drawn, 
exhausted look on Penelope's face. 

The inspector dropped the money back on the desk. 
“I find nothing baffling about the truth, monsieur. I 
have not the slightest doubt that I will find a laundry 
bill in the shirts you packed the other night. It will ex¬ 
plain very glibly the papers your son said he saw hidden 
in the drawer.” 

He turned his back on them and began examining 
the sheaf of dollars on the desk; not counting them, but 
feeling the texture of the paper they were printed on, 
holding each one to the light. 

Then he found what he was looking for. 

“I want you all to witness that I found this note in 
your safe. Miss Whitecliffe.” 

Penelope gasped. “Yes, of course. You are trying to 
frighten me, aren't you. Inspector?” He was succeeding. 

He took up an envelope from the desk and slipped 
the note inside. Then he sealed it. “Sign across the seal, 
please.” 

Her hand was unsteady but she scrawled her name. 
He handed the envelope to Julian. 

“Suppose you tell us the point of all this. Inspector?” 

The inspector half smiled. “Of course, Mr. Ashford. 
The note in there is a counterfeit. We have the numbers 
of the notes that were cashed by the dead man at the 
Casino. The number on this one identifies it as one of 
the same series. Will you sign now?” He waited and then 
passed the envelope to John, who signed without com¬ 
ment. 


122 



Henri Vernier was obviously satisfied with his morn¬ 
ing's work. He was prepared to leave. 

“Miss Whitecliffe, may I interrupt please?” Leon 
Topolski was standing in the doorway. How long he 
had been there none of them could guess. The look of 
dogged patience was habitual. “I'm sorry. Miss White¬ 
cliffe, but I wondered if perhaps I might have my 
money?'* His eyes went to the piles of notes on the desk. 
“I happened to notice that this gentleman was counting 
it and I thought perhaps he might be from the bank 
and he might leave you without enough to give me 
mine.” 

Penelope seemed relieved. “Yes, of course, Mr. To¬ 
polski.'' She moved toward the desk and then stopped 
and looked doubtfully at Vernier. He made no move 
but watched impassively. 

“How much? I don't think I recall.” She seemed aware 
that she was in danger and did not know the direction 
from which to expect it. 

Topolski said eagerly, “No, I'm sure you don't. Miss 
Whitecliffe. I gave it to your uncle . . . I'm sorry, per¬ 
haps I shouldn't have bothered you so soon after he . . . 
he . . .” 

Penelope's voice was strained to the edge of hysteria. 
“It doesn't matter, Mr. Topolski. How much money 
do you want?” 

Inspector Vernier said softly, “Let me help Mr. 
Topolski, Miss Whitecliffe.” He turned away from her 
to the intruder. “You gave the money to Mr. White¬ 
cliffe. Of course you realize that you could say such a 
thing knowing that he is not here to deny it?” 


123 



Topolski's voice rose in frightened protest. “But I 
did give to him and I must have it. It's all the money 
I have in the world. It's not my fault that he diedi" 

“He gave you a receipt?'' 

“Yes, yes, of course, he did; for twenty thousand 
francs.'' His hand fluttered in an inside pocket and he 
brought out a, crumpled paper. “There it is, you see his 
signature. I wrote out the receipt while he counted it, 
and he signed it.'' 

Vernier handed the paper to Penelopfe. “Is that your 
uncle's signature?'' 

She glanced at it briefly. “Yes," she said. “Yes, of 
course." 

Instead of leaving the receipt with her, he took it 
and put it in his wallet. He turned back to the student. 
“When did you deposit this money with Mr. White- 
cliffe?" 

“Two days ago, on the morning of the day he was 
killed." 

“Tell me what happened?" 

Topolski looked from one side to the other, not as if 
he were observing but as if his head were loose on his 
neck. “What happened? I gave Mr. Whitecliffe my 
money and he signed the receipt." 

“What was he doing?" 

“He was counting the money from the safe and he 
seemed irritated that he would have to add my money 
to the amounts he had already made out." 

“It was all here, laid out on the desk, as it is now?" 
the inspector asked. 

“Yes. It was not tidy as it is now, it was spread out as 


124 



if he had been worried in trying to get the amounts 
right/' 

Julian could picture the little man performing this 
operation that was so important to his self-esteem and 
yet was almost beyond him, could imagine how indig¬ 
nant he would be that there could be other currencies 
that had to be taken as seriously as English pounds and, 
as a concession, dollars; and then this student coming 
in at the last moment with his wretched francs. 

“I was sorry for Mr. Whitecliffe," Topolski said, and 
he added in an odd voice, “Just as he was sorry for me." 
His eyes turned to John Keeble. “He was so soiry for 
me in my studies that he persuaded his niece to let me 
go through this term without paying." 

“Well, I'll be damned." From John it sounded like a 
gasp of amazement. 

The inspector turned to him. "Did you say something, 
monsieur?" 

“No, nothing at all." 

Leon Topolski gave no sign that he had heard. “He 
tried to help me in every way he could. He could not 
understand why I had such a gift for the English 
language and none for the French. We used to take 
walks in the evenings and we would have long talks 
about Chaucer and Milton and Blake." Again he 
raised his eyes to John as if appealing to him to ap¬ 
preciate this. “He tried his best to make me understand 
that if only I could appreciate and understand the 
French language, there are almost as many gems in it 
as there are in English." 


125 



The inspector said sourly, ‘1 think we were talking 
about money, monsieur.” 

Topolski jerked away as if he had been threatened 
with a whip. “Yes, yes. I was only trying to explain that 
we were friends and that he trusted me.” 

“Trusted you to do what?” 

“He was upset, as I told you. Each time he counted 
the money the result had been different, and on top 
of it all there was my money.” He took a breath and 
said diffidently, “I am very good at mathematics. I went 
to the desk and said, ‘Please, Mr. Whitecliffe, let me 
help you.* I spread out the money and in a few minutes 
it was all in order. He was very grateful.” His eyes 
moved, as if drawn there against his will, to the pile 
of dollars. “I had to tell him about the counterfeit 
American money,” he added. 

In the silence Inspector Vernier took a step closer to 
the table. “What do you know about that, monsieur?” 

To^lski looked at him as if he wondered why an 
explanation should be necessary. “I learned about 
counterfeit dollars years ago. So did thousands like me. 
Dollars were so much more than just money. They were 
the key that opened all doors. We would give every¬ 
thing we possessed, and more than we possessed, to get 
them. I did that and I found that they had been printed 
in Germany.” He lifted his eyes and looked from one to 
another of his audience. “It cost me too much to learn 
ever to forget.” 

Vernier said, out of the silence that followed, “You 
recognized counterfeit money? How much was there?*' 


126 



“I do not know. It frightened me. I wanted nothing 
to do with it.*' 

“What did you do?** 

“I told Mr. Whitecliffe that if he tried to put it in 
the bank he would find himself in serious trouble. He 
was in a dreadful state. He asked me what he should 
do. I said he should tell Miss Whitecliffe and that both 
of them should go to the police. But that made him 
more distressed than ever. He said there was some sinister 
influence working against her. He said that somehow 
he would have to get rid of the money.** Topolski ran 
a hand through his hair. “I said the other alternative 
was to take this money to the basement and throw it 
into the furnace.** He took a difficult breath. “Mr. 
Whitecliffe was indignant at that. He said why should 
these thieving foreigners impose on his niece? I told 
him that he could take the money to the shops and use 
it in that way because only an expert could know that 
it was not genuine. He said that he could not cheat 
honest tradespeople any more than he could let his niece 
suffer. And then I said, and I meant it for a joke, ‘The 
only thing 1 can think of is to take it to the Casino 
and put it on a number. If it wins you get twice as 
much good money in return. If it loses, well, at least you 
have got rid of it.* ** 

They had all moved closer to him. John said doubt¬ 
fully, “You think he really did that?’* 

Topolski nodded. “That is what I think he did. He 
hated casinos. He would not have felt it cheating. He 
said that he would not take winnings, but if he did 
what I suggested he would get back the money that 


127 



rightly belonged to his niece, and send the rest back 
anonymously. He made me swear not to speak of this 
. . . but he is dead and I think it is my duty now to 
speak." He turned to Inspector Vernier. "But before 
you take the money to the bank, may I have my own 
money, please? I have to go on a journey." 

They watched in silence as the inspector counted out 
the money from his pile of French currency. They 
watched Topolski put it away in his pocket and hesitate 
as if about to speak and change his mind and turn 
away. 

Inspector Vernier stopped him at the door. "What¬ 
ever you may need the money for," he said, "it will not 
be for a journey. You will stay where I can find you." 

Topolski nodded as if the order were not unexpected. 
He went out as unobtrusively as he had come in. 


128 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 


LIn the next room Julian could hear Mrs. Tilford and 
his son. His son was in the bath and above his splashes 
he was discussing their plans for the following day. It 
was still amazing that such a formidable little woman 
could bully the child and still give him a sense of 
security. 

He heard her emphatic sharp voice. “I am not inter¬ 
ested in what you plan for the future, young man. I am 
waiting for you to wash your ears and get out of that 
bath." 

"Coming, Mrs. Tilford." He heard the swish as the 
boy left the bath. "But you will promise, won't you?" 

She shouted in reply. "I never bribe anybody with 
promises, you surely know that ..." 

It seemed to Julian that he was no longer in control 
of his own life or of his son's. The inspector was always 
at hand. Penelope WhiteclifiEe carried his fate in her 
handbag. It was her uncle who had been killed. She 
must realize that very likely the papers in the handbag 
provided the motive for his murder. She need not even 


129 



go to the police. All she would have to do would be to 
post them anonymously. /John could supply the same 
information, and so could Risa. The most sensible thing 
to do would be to go to Vernier and tell him the whole 
story now. Julian listened to the voices in the other room 
and he knew that he would never be the one to resur¬ 
rect the past. 

Mrs. Tilford came out of the room. She stood looking 
at him speculatively. “I find/* she said, “that trying to 
protect somebody is in nine cases out of ten a complete 
waste of time, yet the idea is dinned into people's heads 
almost from the time they are born. It has made the 
English the most nobly furtive race in the world. The 
teacher says, ‘Which one of you boys wrote this illiterate 
slander on the blackboard?* and they sit with blank faces 
instead of piping up and saying that it was the work of 
William Smith. And then with expressions of smug little 
martyrs they accept an imposition of two hundred lines 
each. Half of all the education they receive comes to 
them in the form of punishment. What do you think 
of that?** 

“Not much, Mrs. Tilford.** 

“No, but you are behaving like a schoolboy yourself.** 

“I’m sorry. I must try to grow up.** He smiled faintly, 
wearily. 

She jerked the lapels of her tweed jacket and took a 
step toward him. “I know the signs. You are protecting 
somebody and you know it.** 

He smiled. “That could be myself, couldn't it?** 

“It could be, but it is not.’* 

He looked at her standing in front of him, stiff and 


130 



obviously more disturbed than she had intended to be. 

“You were going to give me some advice, weren’t you, 
Mrs. Tilford?” 

“I was,” she said. “But I have changed my mind. I 
was going to advise you to be more selfish.” Her eyes 
crinkled up in an attractive smile. “I feel that I should 
warn you, though, that this is a different kind of jungle. 
Tyler told me how you carried him through the other 
one. You may find the dangers here more difficult to 
recognize.” She picked up her purse and clutched it 
tightly under her arm and spoke as if she were feeling 
her way. “Against my will, Mr. Ashford ... No, Julian, 
I think is better . . . Julian, I came down here because 
I was worried about my nephew, Charles. And I have 
discovered that the weaklings like Charles are not in 
any particular danger because nothing matters very 
much to them. Aimless young men like Charles have 
been coming to this place for half a century. There is 
an unnamed organization that takes care of them. They 
lose their money in the casinos, they become involved 
with women, and it is always understood that in the 
background there is a tolerant uncle or guardian or 
parent who will take them away and pay their bills and 
hold it over them as a benign threat.” 

She had given him a picture of Charles. Without 
meaning to, she had shown him the endless procession 
of aimless but amusing young men who had contributed 
more to the character of the Riviera than she would 
ever know. In the period she was thinking of, they had 
been the ones who had done everything foolish, every¬ 
thing fantastic, and also they had done everything gay. 


131 



She waited a little and went on, “Charles belongs to 
the past. But you see there is nobody in the background 
now to rescue him, except myself, and 1 cannot do it 
with money.” She stopped and looked at Julian as if to 
give him time to understand. “That is why I came here. 
I have found that the life here has changed. It is more 
vicious and less gay. There are no benign guardians or 
friends in the background.” She turned away. “It is none 
of my business. I think in the jungle the hunters some¬ 
times have a small animal tied to a stake to attract the 
dangerous animals. My unfortunate relative has no idea, 
but that is how I see him.” 

He refrained from smiling at her and said, “From 
your description it is hard to see how it would benefit 
anyone to get a hold over your nephew. If he had a lot 
of money, it might be different.” 

But she was genuinely worried. “I can't understand it 
either. All I know is that there's something** 

He said, “Isn't there always something where your 
nephew is concerned? You explained that that is why 
you are here?” 

She seemed to decide that it would be useless to ex¬ 
plain further, and presently she went away. She left him 
with a feeling of disturbance he would have been loath 
to admit. Almost by instinct he went into his son's room. 
He ruffled his hand through Tyler's hair, and the little 
boy smiled at him sleepily. 

“I like Mrs. Tilford, don't you, daddy?” 

“Very much. She's very kind to us.” 

“Are we paying her?” 

“No, she won't accept any money.” 


132 



“This is the first time anybody has done things for 
us without being paid, isn’t it, daddy?” 

It was painful to have to confess it. “Yes, Tyler, I be¬ 
lieve it is.” 

“That shows she must like me, doesn’t it?” 

“Do you know I believe it does.” 

But what if there were some other reason? He had en¬ 
gaged Mr. Whitecliffe. That had been providentially, or 
suspiciously, easy. He remembered again how Penelope 
had tried to warn him. Then again, equally providenti¬ 
ally Mrs. Tilford had appeared and just as provi¬ 
dentially she had produced John Keeble to take Mr. 
Whitecliffe’s place at the school. He asked himself what 
he knew about John and Mrs. Tilford . . . nothing in 
fact but what they had told him. 

He thought of the things she had been saying a few 
minutes ago. Her talk about her weakling nephew. He 
had said there would be hardly any point in trying to 
establish a hold over Charles. But what if through 
Charles somebody had established a power over Mrs. 
Tilford? 

He watched his son snuggle into the blankets and 
fall asleep, secure in the belief that he had found a 
friend and the knowledge that his father had come back 
to him. 

Julian told himself that it is only because a sleeping 
child is a defenseless thing that he was even entertain¬ 
ing these fears. But now that they were established he 
could not drive them away. He could even hear an un¬ 
known voice in the background: “Now I have some¬ 
thing I want you to do, it is a small matter when you 


13S 



consider what you owe me. This is what it is: this after¬ 
noon Ainslie WhitecliflEe was murdered. He had been 
employed by a man named Julian Ashford to take care 
of his son. I want you to take his place.” 

She would be able to reconcile that with her consci¬ 
ence. There was nothing criminal about volunteering 
to take care of a small boy. He was thinking of what she 
had said in a diflEerent light. When she had spoken of 
Charles and of herself, perhaps she had been trying to 
warn him. She had made it clear that this nephew was 
a weakling and that she loved him, and he could also 
guess that Mrs. Tilford was not a person Who made a 
habit of discussing her family afiEairs with strangers. 

Julian had some dinner sent up and ate it slowly and 
without pleasure. He forced himself to read for a while 
but concentration was impossible. He realized suddenly 
that the telephone was ringing in the other room and 
that it had been ringing for some time. 

“Is this Mr. Ashford's apartment?” 

“Yes.” There was a diffident note in the voice that was 
vaguely familiar. 

“I would like to speak to Mr. Keeble, please.” 

“Mr. Keeble? I'm sorry, he's not here.” 

“Oh, but I'm sure, he must be there.” 

Julian put the receiver back where it belonged. He 
had no intention of arguing as to John's whereabouts. 
Almost at once the phone rang again. 

The same voice said, “I am very sorry, Mr. Ashford. 
I have oflEended you. I did not intend to do that.” The 
voice had an irritating persistence. 

“I told you Mr. Keeble wasn't here and you said that 


134 



he was here. There didn't seem much point in debating 
the matter." 

The voice became urgent. "But he said he was going 
to call on you. I rang and asked if I could come and see 
him and he said no, he was going to your suite." 

"He must have changed his mind, or do you think 
he's hiding under the bed?" 

"No, no, please, you misunderstood me. I insisted that 
he must be there because I was so upset. It is so urgent 
you see." The voice changed slightly, lowering discreetly. 
"Miss Whitecliffe is not there is she, Mr. Ashford?" 

Julian said flatly, "Do you mind telling me who you 
are?" 

"No, of course not, I am Leon Topolski. I am a stu¬ 
dent at the school and in fact I am telephoning from 
there now." 

"Miss Whitecliffe is not here," he said. 

"I don't know what to do. I suppose the only thing I 
can do is to wait here till she comes home. Mr. Ashford, 
you are a friend of Miss Whitecliffe so perhaps you can 
advise me." 

He was silent for a moment and he could hear the 
man at the end of the line breathing painfully as if he 
had been running. "I am a complete stranger in Nice, 
Mr. Topolski," Julian said. "It would be foolish of me 
to attempt to advise anyone." 

But it seemed that the problem could not wait. "I 
don't know what to do. Today when I went to get my 
money and told about those forged notes, I hardly real¬ 
ized what an awful thing I had done to Miss White- 


135 



cliffe, after all the kindness I had had from her and from 
Mr. WhitecliflEe . . . 

“I telephoned Mr. Keeble and he was very rude to 
me, and I asked him if I could come around this eve¬ 
ning and talk to him and he said no, he was going to 
visit you. I suppose it was just an excuse, but that is 
what he said. And I believed him and that is why I was 
sure he would be there.” 

The voice had a dogged eagerness. He was determined 
to have his way before Julian could interrupt. ”So when 
I could not talk to Mr. Keeble who has been kind to me 
in the past, I decided to come here and see Miss White- 
cliffe.” 

“Did you expect Miss Whitecliffe to be waiting to 
welcome you?” 

“No, no. I could not expect that after what I’d done. 
But I had some information and I knew that it would 
more than undo the harm that I’d done. You see I 
wanted to tell Mr. Keeble and have him come with me 
to Miss Whitecliffe, but he refused.” 

Julian said, “You gave the other information to the 
police. If this new information will undo the harm you 
have done, surely you should go back to them?” 

Leon Topolski’s voice rose in protest. “No, no; I 
can’t do that. Miss Whitecliffe would not want me to do 
that and neither would you, Mr. Ashford, particularly 
you. It’s something Mr. Whitecliffe told me.” 

“I’ve no idea what you are talking about,” Julian said. 
“But from the tone of your voice it sounds like black¬ 
mail. Does that explain your elaborate reasons for tele¬ 
phoning?” 


136 



There was a pause at the other end, and then the 
voice answered in a tone of quiet resignation. “I wish 
you had not said that, Mr. Ashford. I suppose you are 
justified from what you know of me. But there are times 
when the worst of us would like to make amends.” 
There was the familiar click and the line was dead. 

Julian turned away. He was disgusted with himself. 
He dropped into a chair and picked up the newspaper 
that the bellboy had delivered earlier. It was the con¬ 
tinental edition of the Daily Mail, that strange mixture 
of international news and small town gossip. He read 
that Pandit Nehru had served veiled notice on the 
West; that while in practice he was obliged to co¬ 
operate with them, in his heart he supported the prin¬ 
ciple of Asia for the Asiatics. On the same page he read 
that “Glamorous Mrs. Raoul de Wollfe has had her 
first experience of what is known as a brush with the 
police. She had been called upon to provide an alibi 
for husband Raoul, who was apparently found loitering 
on the scene of our favorite crime. As Raoul is seldom 
found loitering anywhere but in this particular locale, 
and as it was not his fault that somebody chose to be 
murdered there, the need for the alibi seems rather 
pointless. Risa, of course, regards it as just another of 
those experiences. As she describes it, it couldn’t have 
been more droll. But we heard that Raoul became quite 
hot under the collar when unpredictable Risa refused 
flatly to give him an alibi. She says she wished we could 
have seen him. We do.” 

Clever Risa. He wondered what Inspector Vernier 
would think when he read that paragraph. 


137 



The telephone had begun ringing again. John was 
piling frrom downstairs. “I*m establishing an alibi. 
May I come up or are you engaged?” 

“Come up.” 

He put drinks on the table with a feeling of relief. 
He had been too much alone with his suspicions. 

John helped himself and stretched out in a chair. “I 
don't know how you feel,” he said. “In your case I'd be 
sick and tired of the whole lot of us.” 

“There are exceptions,” Julian said. “Why do you 
need the alibi?” 

John laughed. “I honestly don't know. It must be 
that I have a mania for telling the truth. Friend Topol- 
ski rang me up and said he wanted to talk to me. Hon¬ 
estly I hate talking to him. He spends half his time 
being sorry for Poland and the other half being sorry 
for himself. I told him I had another engagement and 
on the spur of the moment I said I was calling on you 
and so, not to make myself a liar I've done it.” 

“He telephoned here.” 

John sat up. “There is a dogged ill-mannered persist¬ 
ence about that man. So he was checking to see if I was 
telling the truth?” He laughed suddenly. “I seem to 
have been wasting my time and yours. I haven't even an 
excuse for staying.” 

“He was telephoning from the school,” Julian said. 
“When you refused to see him, he tried to see Miss 
Whiteclffe. What he wants to say, I gather, concerns 
her particularly.” 

John stood up. “I should have met him. You say he 
tried to see her?” 


138 



“Yes, presumably she's not at home. He is probably 
waiting there till she comes back." 

“Damn lunatic that I am." John went to the tele¬ 
phone and gave the number and waited. He turned 
backward and forward with the receiver pressed to his 
ear. Julian could hear the steady depressing sound of an 
unanswered telephone. 

John took the receiver from his ear and turned, 
holding it in his hand. It was louder now. “Are you sure 
he said he was waiting at the school?" 

“Quite sure." 

“If you don't mind. I'll go around and see what hap¬ 
pened. If he said he would wait, I'm quite sure he 
would." He picked up his drink and finished it. 

“I'll come with you." 

John hesitated as if he would like to find an excuse 
for going alone. Then he smiled. “I'm not exactly scared 
of Topolski," he said. “But do come if you feel like it." 

They crossed charming little Jardin Albert by the 
curving paths. The night was soft and warm and so still 
that they could hear the throb of the music in the old 
Casino Municipal. 

As they came up to the school there was no sound but 
the crunch of their feet on the gravel. Light was show¬ 
ing in the lecture room on the second floor, but there 
was none in Penelope's apartment higher iip. 

John stopped and stood looking at the windows above 
him. “There's something unpleasant in the thought of 
that man wandering about up there. I don't think he's 
dangerous; but I don't think he's quite sane. That per¬ 
secution mania of his ... " 


139 



Julian put a hand on his arm. "It may not have been 
so much a mania as you think.” He pointed into the 
shadows where the drive met the wall. 

The dark inert shape was outlined dimly against the 
pale white of the graveled drive. In the outline there 
was a suggestion of movement, as if the body were en¬ 
deavoring to crawl. 

Julian crouched and held the flame of his cigarette 
lighter to the half-turned face. The dead lie very close 
to the earth. The face was caressing the small stones. 
The coat sleeve on one arm had been pushed back al¬ 
most to the elbow, and the thin fingers had clutched up 
a handful of gravel and were holding it greedily. 

John took one glance at what was visible in the little 
pool of light, and then swung away. "I'm sorry,” he 
muttered. "You may be more accustomed to this sort of 
thing than I am. I don't like it.” 

Julian clicked off. the light and stood up. "Nobody 
likes murder,” he said quietly, and added, "Unless per¬ 
haps the police . . . hadn't you better telephone them?” 

John said doubtfully, "Yes, I suppose I should.” He 
added more violently, "God, we'll have that damned 
inspector around here again!” 

"Yes, we'll have the inspector. We seem to be making 
a habit of being on the scene of the crime, don't we?” 

"Must we be on the scene of this one?” John's voice 
was hesitant, unsteady. "We came out for a walk. Is there 
any reason why we shouldn't continue it?” 

Julian said evenly, "We could if we thought it would 
be a good idea to let Penelope come home and find a 
corpse on her doorstep.” 


140 



John drew a breath through his teeth. “I hadn’t 
thought of that.” 

“There is, of course, another point. This morning 
Leon Topolski told Inspector Vernier that he had found 
the counterfeit notes, and this evening here at the 
school we find him dead. You may not have noticed but 
he was stabbed in the back.” 

John swung around to face him. “Are you trying to 
suggest that Penelope had anything to do with this?” 

“/ am not trying to suggest it,” Julian said. “But 
don’t you see that whoever killed Topolski might have 
been?” 

“Yes,” John said. “Yes,” as if the suggestion suddenly 
appalled him, “they’ll say it was a plot hatched up here 
in the school.” And then hopelessly, “But what can we 
do?” 

“If I had a car,” Julian said, “I would consider it 
my unpleasant duty to put this body in it and take it 
away, anywhere away from here.” 

“I have a car.” John’s voice was uncertain in the 
darkness. “It would be a hell of a dangerous thing to 
do, wouldn’t it?” 

“It would. You would have to be sure, too, that no¬ 
body here had heard or Seen anything unusual.” 

“There are the porter and his wife. If Topolski came 
into the building they must have let him in.” 

“I think you should go and ask for him. He did tele¬ 
phone and ask if he could see you. I can be a witness to 
that.” 

John hesitated and then walked to the dimly lighted 
entrance of the school. 


141 



Julian turned back to the body. He did not look at 
the face this time, but concentrated on the handle of 
the knife. The shape was familiar. John had talked 
about one of the same kind, and laughed at himself for 
carrying it about the world when he could have bought 
an identical one in the Rue de France for a hundred 
francs. 

“Nobody there at all. I should have remembered. 
Everybody in the school knows that the old couple go 
every Thursday to the vaudeville show at the Municipal 
Casino. Everybody laughs at them. The old boy likes 
the girls and Francine goes along to bring him home.” 

“So the place is unprotected?” 

“On Thursdays, yes. But there's nothing really to 
protect. If anyone suggested to Penelope that she would¬ 
n't be safe alone in the place, she'd laugh at them. I 
know, I've suggested it myself.” 

Julian could imkgine that the best way to make sure 
that Penelope would refuse protection would be to sug¬ 
gest that she needed it. “I think,” he said, “if you are 
going to bring our car you should hurry.” 

“You'll wait? I—I don't think I could go through 
with this alone.” 

“I'll wait.” He listened to the urgent footsteps crunch¬ 
ing and fading on the drive, then he turned back to 
the body in the shadows. He took the handle of the 
knife and gently eased it from the back of the dead man. 
He carried it into the hall of the school and found the 
washroom that was in a recess under the stairs. He put 
the knife in a basin and stood aside and watched the 
hot water streaming over it. He left it for five minutes. 

142 



Then he dried it carefully and put it in the inside 
pocket of his coat. 

He was back in the hall when he heard her quick 
steps on the drive. They met in the doorway and stood 
for a moment without speaking, each appraising the 
other. 

Penelope’s voice was puzzled. “What are you doing 
here?” 

He smiled. “Calling, is that awfully strange?” 

She stood facing him. “Most people telephone.” 

He nodded. “Yes, I was walking and for some reason 
I arrived here. I suppose I have developed the colonial 
habit of dropping in on my friends.” 

The antagonism left her face and she looked contrite. 
“It isn’t that,” she said. “But don’t you see that it’s 
foolish to come here? You remember what happened 
the other night, what they said to us. Please, I don’t 
want to go through that again.” 

There was nothing he could say. Unless he could 
have told her about the telephone calls and the body 
lying in the shadows outside. “It won’t occur again. 
Miss Whitecliffe,” he said stiiQQy. “I must learn that I 
am not living where people are just good neighbors, but 
where people are civilized. Good night.” 

She took an impulsive step forward but he had to go 
on with what he had begun. He walked past her and 
closed the door sharply behind him. She might look out 
the window. He had to carry the body of Leon Topolski 
down to the drive gate and into the protection of the 
trees before she could climb the stairs. 

The glittering, too-conspicuous white car was waiting 

143 



for him and he said grimly, “Must you have a car like 
this? Is something more modest not good enough for 
you?” 

John recovered his nerve. He said, “I didn't buy it 
with the idea of transporting corpses, otherwise I'd 
have had it black. Where's the passenger?'' 

Obviously he had come prepared. Newspapers were 
spread over the floor and the covers of the back seat. 
There was a rug. They lifted the inert body into the 
car and covered it as if to keep it warm for its last ride. 

“You know where you're going?'' 

John nodded. “I have a place in mind.'' He pressed 
the starter. “I'd rather go alone if you don't mind. I 
don't know why, but I don't want anybody to see me 
do this. Do you understand?'' 

“I understand. Would you like me to wait at your 
place till you come back?'' 

“Yes.” He took a key from his pocket and handed it 
over. “When I come back I might not want to be alone. 
You might light a fire, my servant is out.” He laughed 
shortly. “Thursday must be the servants' night.” As he 
was about to move off, he looked through the trees to 
the school building beyond. “Look up there. Isn't that 
Penelope's light?” 

“She came in while you were away.” 

John leaned over the door. “Does she know? Did you 
tell her what happened?” 

“Miss Whitecliffe thinks I came to pay a social call.” 

“That,” John said, “is almost as fantastic as if I 
asked her to come with me now for a drive in my car. 
I'll see you later ... I hope.” 


144 



Julian watched him out of sight and then walked 
down to the Rue de France. The curio shop that John 
Keeble had mentioned was a tiny place. Its window 
was overcrowded and most of its contents seemed to be 
covered with dust. The knife John had spoken of was 
there, relegated to the back, as if the proprietor had 
given up hope that it was salable. 

The shop was still open. A bent little man with steel- 
rimmed spectacles came forward to serve. 

“There is a silver snufiHbox in the window,” Julian 
said. “If it's Georgian I'd like to buy it for a friend.” 

“Certainly it is, monsieur. English silver, George the 
Third. It comes from the villa of the Duke of Montcrief. 
His own butler brought it to me.” 

Julian laughed. “Probably he stole it.” 

The little man was indignant. “Oh no, sir. His Grace, 
you see, is eccentric and if I may say so is a little mean. 
At Christmastime he does not give his staff money, but 
some trinket from his vast collection.” He shuffled to 
the window. “Now let me see, where was it?” 

“There in the comer, the front.” 

The little man leaned forward shortsightedly, and 
began shuffling through the display. Julian picked up 
the knife and slipped it into his pocket. Then he paid 
the little man what he asked for the snuffbox, which 
was far more than the value of the knife and the box 
combined. He walked on up the Rue de Rivoli to the 
Boulevard Victor Hugo. On the way he dropped the 
purloined knife down a drain that would carry it out 
to sea. 

He let himself into John's house and stood for a 

145 



moment in the darkened drawing room as immobile 
as if he were listening and waiting in the jungle. But 
when he switched on the light the room was empty. He 
lighted the fire and waited while its age-old friendliness 
gave a vitality to the room. 

He had known that the space above the mantel where 
John's knife had been would be empty. He found the 
sheath lying on a table by the door. He put the knife 
into it and returned it to where it belonged. 

He went to a chair by the fire and waited. He felt 
relaxed, detached, as if he were watching a drama that 
involved other people’s lives. He was technically in¬ 
volved, as a stage manager might be, in taking care of 
the props for the actors. The only alternative to what 
his feelings were now would be to live in a nightmare. 

The telephone began to ring. Obviously the call was 
for John, but an unanswered telephone was something 
he never had been able to endure. 

“Yes?” 

The voice at the other end came breathlessly. “Oh, 
John, darling, I was afraid you were out. Something 
awful has happened. You ...” 

“Mr. Keeble is out,” he said. “Is there a message I 
can give him?” 

“Yes. As soon as he comes in tell him that Mrs. de 
Wollfe ...” She stopped and said in a curiously flat 
voice, “That's Julian, isn't it?” 

“Yes, Risa.” 

She hesitated. “I would not like anybody except John 
to know that I called.” 

“There’s no need to warn me.” 


146 



She replied quickly, “No, I don't mean that. I don't 
want the police to know.'' 

“I don't think you'll find that the police bother too 
much about these things,'' he said. “I've not lived here 
a lot; but I don't think they would think your tele¬ 
phoning John any of their business." 

“Unfortunately, it is their business. It's about John's 
car," she said. 

“His car?" He thought of John and the grizzly mis¬ 
sion, he had undertaken, and his voice became urgent. 
“What about his car, Risa? What's happened?" 

Her voice lowered as if she were afraid there might 
be an eavesdropper. “Listen, Julian. Tonight we were 
having a small dinner party up at the Chalet. Well, 
there was a robbery. An old lady who collects diamonds 
was being driven up by her chauffeur. She was held up 
and robbed of everything she was wearing. Instead of 
the dinner party we've had the police." 

“I'll tell John when he comes in. I'm sure he'll be as 
upset as you are." He was relieved that John had not 
been involved in something much worse. 

“But you don't understand." Her voice sounded im¬ 
patient. “Somebody has told the police that the car 
that was used when they robbed her belonged to John." 

He said slowly, “What is the message, Risa? Do I 
have to tell him that police have evidence that he 
robbed this old lady of her jewels?" 

“I didn't say that he did. I wanted to warn him that 
the police have been told that his car was there." 

“I'm sure he'll be grateful. I'll tell him to call you 
as soon as he comes in." 


147 



“No, don't do that; just tell him what I told you." 
Then as if a door had opened, “Yes, of course, of course 
we'll be there. I'll tell Raoul that whether he likes it or 
not he simply must dress. 'Bye ..." 

He knew her technique so well. He walked back to 
his chair by the fire, thinking about her. Until you knew 
Risa you accepted everything and then later you began 
to realize and recognize all the situations out of which 
she had escaped by the skin of her teeth, and you real¬ 
ized what a thrill she had got from the danger and the 
escape, and what real fun she found in deception. 

John looked white and exhausted when he came in. 
He poured himself a drink and slumped with his feet 
out to the fire. “I don't know," he said, “but I have an 
impression that you are more accustomed to this sort of 
thing than I am. For me it has been quite an experience. 
I used to think the drive from here to Monte Carlo 
over the Grande Corniche was the loveliest in the world. 
I don't think I'll ever go that way again." 

“You went up there?" 

He nodded. “Right to the top. I remembered that 
there was a little road up there, no more than a cart 
track that leads to a deserted quarry. There was a bare 
outcrop of naked rock. I lifted him out and leaned him 
with his back against it and I had a feeling he was re¬ 
proaching me. He looked lonely. You see, all his life 
Topolski has lived in cities. He liked narrow streets 
and cafes full of smoke and noise. Up there where I 
left him, it was still and empty and he was alone." He 
shook his head and turned apologetically. “I'm sorry, 
Julian, I know it had to be done." 


148 



He was not like the clever slick young man whom 
Julian had known. 

‘‘While you were out,” he said, “Mrs. de Wollfe 
called.” 

John seemed to come back from his memories, back 
to Nice. His voice took on its habitual ease. “Risa? What 
did she suggest? A party?” 

“Apparently she has had one: the police. She rang up 
to warn you.” 

John smiled and turned to his guest. “Didn't you tell 
Risa that you and I are getting tired of the police? I 
can't speak for you, of course, you may be a stranger 
here and welcome even Inspector Vernier as a friend, 
but not me. I'm sick of them.” 

“Risa wanted to tell you that the police have identi¬ 
fied your car at the scene of a jewel robbery.” 

John seemed to take a little time to accept what he 
had heard. He put his glass aside and got up from his 
chair. “Did Risa actually telephone to tell me that?” 

“She was quite serious. She wanted to warn you.” 

He turned to the fire and put out his foot and a flurry 
of sparks rose up as he pushed the logs. He reached 
out his hand and picked up the knife above the mantel 
piece and then put it back again, adjusting it carefully 
so that it balanced. “I wasn't really thinking about it,” 
he said slowly. “But in the back of my mind it did 
register that my car started up quickly tonight.” He 
nodded. “Yes, the garage was not locked. Somebody 
could have taken my car.” He moved toward the phone. 
“Risa is rather a wonderful person.” 

“She said you were not to telephone.” 


149 



“Why not?“ John stopped and looked over his 
shoulder. 

Julian got up from his chair. “I had the impression 
Risa was taking a risk warning you." 

John turned and came back to the fire. “I don't think 
Raoul will ever forgive me for deserting to Penelope's 
camp," he said. 

Nor Risa: Julian did not say it, but he was thinking 
it as, after leaving John at midnight, he walked under 
the patterned shadows of the trees that lined the street. 


150 



CHAPTER TWELVE 


HEN Julian Ashford went out at night and left 
Tyler alone, he made it a rule to leave at least one light 
burning in the living room. 

When he came in the room was dark. He switched 
on the lights with a vague feeling that the room was 
not quite as he had left it. Then he noticed the edge 
of the carpet was turned up and one of the chairs was 
facing in another direction. He guessed that Tyler had 
decided to wake up and play one of his many games. 

He went on to his bedroom. The disturbance here 
was more obvious and violent. The bed was in a mess 
and every drawer showed signs of a search. This was 
too much, it was worse because it was something new in 
mischief. He was angry as he strode across the hall. 

The bedroom was in darkness and quite silent. He 
switched on the light. The bed was empty. The clothes 
were thrown back and there was a nest in the pillow 
where a head had rested. 

“Tyler . . His voice was sharp with fear. 

There was no reply. He flung open the bathroom 
door. It was cold and the only sound was from a drip¬ 
ping tap. 


151 



“Tyler . . The silence was a mockery. 

He must be somewhere, playing around somewhere. 
He ran back to his own room, to the bathroom and the 
living room. The apartment was empty. It was as empty 
as his own heart. It had happened; this was what he 
had feared and he had thrust fear aside. 

He ran to the elevator and as he waited it seemed 
that the attendant was deliberately dawdling. The man 
opened the doors and stood aside for him to come in. 

“Have you seen my son, have you taken him down?“ 

The man shook his head. “No, monsieur." 

“You know him, don’t you?" 

The man smiled. “Tyler, of course, we all know him." 

“How long have you been on duty?" 

“I was here when you went out. I have been on since 
then." 

“The other elevators, what about them?" 

The old man was beginning to catch something of 
Julian’s panic. “There were no others at this hour, 
monsieur. Mine is the only elevator working, it is a 
quiet period." 

“Did you direct anybody to my room this evening?" 

“Mr. Keeble, sir. But you know that—I carried you 
down together a little later. I am almost sure, no, I 
am quite sure that I have not carried anybody who was 
not a resident to this floor since you left. I will ask 
downstairs, sir. He may have gone down by the stairs. 
He does sometimes on his way to school and we all 
pretend it is a great surprise to see him on the ground 
floor. I will ask the boys to look for him. How was he 
dressed, monsieur?" 


152 



“When I went out tonight he was in his bed, asleep.” 

The old man shook his head. He looked disturbed. 
“None of the stafiE would have permitted him to play 
about the corridors in his sleeping clothes. They would 
have taken him back to his room at once.” He stepped 
back into his cage. “I will ask everybody, Mr. Ashford, 
at once.” Quite obviously he regarded this as a new 
development in the Casino Murder Case. Otherwise he 
would have decided that Tyler was just another lonely 
little hotel dweller who had wandered away to get into 
mischief. 

Julian telephoned to the reception desk. Nobody had 
asked him for since John Keeble. The boy was not in 
any of the public rooms and he had not gone out 
through the main entrance. Were there other entrances 
that he could have used? Of course, there were several 
and because he had made himself known in the pantries 
and the kitchens he would probably know of them. The 
clerk said that he would have a quick search made of 
the hotel. He was sure they would find him in no time. 

Julian told himself he would have to wait, that it was 
idiotic to let himself get into a panic. The clerk at the 
desk had assured him there was nothing novel about a 
small boy causing alarm by deciding to explore the 
hotel. 

He began to tramp back and forth from one wall to 
the other, waiting for the call. It came at last, from 
the clerk to whom he had spoken earlier. His voice was 
not resigned as it had been. There was a note of worry 
in it. “I really can't understand it, Mr. Ashford. The 


153 



whole staff have been through the hotel from top to 
bottom. The boy is not here." 

"He must have gone out, without being noticed." 

The clerk was doubtful. "Mr. Ashford, it is most 
unlikely. He would be noticed . . . Unless," he added 
uncertainly, "he dressed again in his ordinary street 
clothes. Then it is just possible. Is there anything else 
we can do?" 

"Thank you, no. I'll have to telephone the police." 

The clerk could visualize another sensation about to 
involve the hotel. "But, Mr. Ashford, he really can't 
be far away. I will send the bellboys to search in the 
park. I will get the taximen outside to search the streets. 
There are a dozen of them outside and they will be 
happy to help us." 

"It may not be as simple as that, I'm afraid. He 
doesn't go wandering about the streets at night." 

"You must, of course, decide, sir." The clerk had done 
all he could. 

"Hello, daddy." 

He swung around. Tyler was standing blinking at the 
light and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. 

Julian raised his voice into the telephone. "He's here 
now. I can't begin to explain it, but he's here in the 
suite." 

"I am glad to hear it, sir." He spoke resignedly as 
if that was what he had expected in the first place. 

Julian hung up and walked across to the boy. "Tyler, 
where have you been? The whole hotel has been turned 
upside down looking for you." 

"I was hiding in the clothes cupboard, daddy. When 


154 



it got quiet, I was still afraid to come out and I went 
to sleep on the floor. Then I woke up and peeped out 
and heard you talking so I came out.” 

He felt weak with relief. “But, Tyler, why did you go 
into the cupboard? Why were you afraid?” 

“Somebody came into the living room. I thought it 
was you and then 1 heard them cough and I knew it 
wasn’t. I wanted to go out and see who it was, but you 
told me that if burglars came into the apartment when 
you were out, I was to pretend to be asleep.” 

“It was probably Mrs. Tilford. She has a key and 
most likely she came back for something she had left 
behind.” 

He shook his head. “No, it wasn’t Mrs. Tilford. She 
has a different cough. Mrs. Tilford coughs as if she 
were growling. Anyway Mrs. Tilford wouldn’t go into 
your room and start opening all the drawers. I thought 
the burglar would come to my room next. I wanted to 
jump up and lock my door, but my door was very close 
to yours, so I got into the cupboard and shut the door. 
I thought if anyone came into my room they would 
think I was out. They didn’t steal anything of mine 
either. I just looked.” 

He put his arm around Tyler’s shoulders and walked 
with him back to his room. Tyler held his hand posses¬ 
sively as he wriggled into the bedclothes. “I wasn’t really 
afraid, but I’m glad you’re home.” 

Tyler was telling Mrs. Tilford about his adventures 
of the night before as she helped him undress the follow¬ 
ing night. Julian could hear them in the bedroom. 


155 



“At first, daddy thought it might be you,“ Tyler was 
saying, “but I said you didn't cough like the person who 
came last night" 

“Hum . . . how exactly do I cough?" 

“You growl, like this." He cleared his throat as if he 
hated it. 

“Rubbish." Without realizing it she cleared her own 
throat in precisely the same manner and, annoyed with 
herself, added, “You probably imagined the whole thing. 
I'd say you were messing about in that dark closet and 
gave yourself a fright." 

“No, Mrs. Tilford, I was in bed." 

She said grudgingly, “Very well, I believe you." She 
raised her voice. “And I must say that I'm grateful that 
you were able to convince your father that it was not I 
who was messing about in his bedroom." 

The little boy was shocked. “Oh, but Mrs. Tilford, 
he'd never dream of thinking you were robbing his 
room. You know what people are like. He was just try¬ 
ing to make me not feel scared." 

Julian completed the bow in his tie and looked at his 
image in the mirror. “You know what people are like 
. . ." He wondered how he really appeared to his son. 
He remembered the several times he had caught Tyler 
regarding him with candid appraisal, and the times 
when he explained something as if their roles were 
reversed and it was Tyler who was making something 
clear to a child. Even his voice then was a recognizably 
fair copy of an adult's. 

In the other room Mrs. Tilford was saying nothing 
to suggest that the explanation was an unreasonable one. 


156 



That may have been why they got on so well. She under¬ 
stood his point of view. 

He finished dressing and came out into the living 
room. While he waited he poured himself a drink. He 
heard the sound of the bath running and Mrs. Tilford’s 
voice. “Go along with you now, and remember yoiu* 
teeth and behind your ears, and don't stay in there for¬ 
ever." 

She came out to the living room and looked at him 
without approval. “Mr. Ashford," she said, “even when 
it's for your son's peace of mind, I object to being as¬ 
sociated with a burglary." 

Her indignation was disarming. He could only think 
of her manner of voice as scolding. He smiled down at 
her and, for the moment at least, his suspicions went 
out of his mind. “I shouldn't have said it," he said. 
“But we were both rather frightened. You see I thought 
he had been kidnapped." 

She looked at him sharply. Her eyes had a birdlike 
inquisitiveness. “Why should you have thought he had 
been kidnapped? Children who are left alone wander 
oflE alone by the thousand." 

He answered ruefully, “I accept the rebuke, Mrs. Til- 
ford." 

She said impatiently, “Nonsense. No man can act as 
a nursemaid for twenty-four hours a day. You are going 
out this evening. I'll stay till you come back." 

“No, no, that won't be in the least necessary." 

“I assure you it is necessary. In fact I promised the 
boy." 

“He asked you?" 


157 



“Of course he asked me. Any child likes company, 
even mine.” 

He felt awkward as he explained. “I have arranged 
with one of the bellboys from downstairs to stay here 
in the room. You see, Mrs. Tilford, I'm going to dinner 
in Monte Carlo and I'll be quite late. You've refused 
flatly to let me put this on a business basis and I simply 
can't ask you to sit up half the night here in this suite. 
I not only can't ask you, I won't let you.” 

She sat abruptly in a chair and the jaw of her small 
face looked formidable. “What reason had you for mak¬ 
ing such a ridiculous arrangement?” 

“I thought you'd approve, that after the incident last 
night it would be better to have someone in the suite.” 

“Why not say someone you can trust and have done 
with it?” 

He felt ashamed that he had let her guess. “Mrs. Til- 
ford, I told you, I really can't ask you to give up your 
time. We are complete strangers to you.” 

“Your son doesn't feel that way, Mr. Ashford. But 
you quite obviously do.” Her tone was hurt, hostile, 
and then her features softened. “I can well imagine 
that you could feel that we are all enemies here; or 
perhaps it is that you know you have one enemy and 
don't know who it is. I am not an utter fool, you know.” 

He laughed. “And I'm not such a fool as to accuse 
you of being one, Mrs. Tilford.” 

The telephone rang and Raoul de Wollfe from the 
foyer said, “We are here, Ashford. Do come down when 
you are ready.” 

“I'll be down at once.” 


158 



He turned. “I have to go I’m afraid, Mrs. Tilford. 
I’m very grateful to you.” 

She walked with him to the door and as he opened it 
she said, “You are dining at the Sporting Club, I sup¬ 
pose?” 

“I don't know. Mr. and Mrs. de Wollfe are taking 
me. 

“You will go there. Raoul de Wollfe would never 
dine anywhere else.” Her voice took a more subdued 
note. She sounded embarrassed. “I wonder if you would 
tell me if my nephew comes in there?” 

“Yes, of course.” He didn’t relish the idea of spying 
on Charles, but there was nothing else he could say. 
“Was he going to dine with us?” 

She shook her head doubtfully. “I don’t think so. But 
he is desperately in love with that girl I told you about, 
Jane Land. He invited her out and she told him that 
she was going to be in the party you are going to join, 
and I’m sure he’ll go there. I told him he couldn't 
possibly aflEord to go to these places but he laughed and 
said he had more money than I thought.” She looked 
very small and a little frightened. “I can’t follow him 
to these places. Would it be too much to ask you to tell 
me how he behaves?” 

The idea was not pleasant. Again, as always, since he 
had been here he found himself being involved in the 
lives of complete strangers. Because she was arbitrarily 
taking care of his son he must report on the behavior 
of a worthless nephew. 


159 



CHAPTER THIRTEEN 



Km Ui AOUL DE WOLLFE was waiting in the lobby and 
escorted Julian to the door. “So good that you were 
free. I felt that it would be nice if we could get away 
from this atmosphere of suspicion and go over to Monte 
Carlo. I don't know how you feel here in Nice, but I'm 
developing an extraordinary sense of guilt. I feel that 
people are looking at me out of the comers of their 
eyes." 

“I'm beginning to see what. . 

De Wollfe turned to look at him. “Beginning? I 
should have thought it would have been brought home 
to you quite strongly. Aren't you regarded as what is 
known as number one suspect?" 

“Possibly," Julian said dryly. “The police have not 
given me their confidence." 

Raoul said with explosive apology, “Confound it. I 
invited you out so that we could forget this nonsense 
and the first words we exchange have to do with this 
very thing. Come along; Risa is waiting in the car and 
the dear girl at least will have sense enough not to let 
us talk about it." 

The chauffeur opened the door and De Wollfe said, 
“Risa, I'm putting Ashford in the back with you. I'll 
sit with Pierre in front." 


160 



‘‘Charming.” Her voice in the darkness was quietly 
indifferent. 

He would never remember in detail what they talked 
about during the drive. Risa or Raoul told him that 
the road they were taking was the Moyenne Comiche, 
the middle one between the Grand Comiche and the 
one that wound and twisted through the resorts on the 
coast. He remembered that it was beautiful and that 
the three of them talked quietly, the host and hostess 
and the guest. 

And he was quite aware of Risa. He knew that she 
was enjoying this; having him sitting beside her in the 
quiet darkness, talking easily and thinking her own 
thoughts, having the man who thought he was her hus¬ 
band leaning casually over the front seat, talking to a 
man whom he thought was a passing guest. It was and 
it sounded civilized, and under the spell Julian found 
himself incapable of being critical. Risa was right and 
the past was not important. 

As they went up in the elevator to the salon at the 
Sporting Club, he had no wish to rid himself of the 
feeling that he was the stranger who was being enter¬ 
tained by two charming hosts. 

Jane Land came into the club as they were leaving 
their coats. He liked her as he saw her, and liked the 
way she smiled and shook hands. 

“Jane is the working girl of the party,” Raoul said. 
“She says that she does not believe in love, that she 
earns her living on her own two feet.” He held her 
hand a little long and added, “And every male from 


161 



Toulon to Mentone would like to prove that she is 
wrong.** 

Julian noticed that she drew her hand away before he 
wanted to give it up and that Risa had noticed it. 

“Jane, dear,** she said, “don*t mind Raoul. He has a 
guest and he*s trying to prove that he knows you better 
than he does. Who wouldn*t?** 

Raoul darkened and looked at Risa suspiciously and 
then almost at once turned with gallantry to Jane. “Risa 
knows I adore glamour, but I prefer to spell it Jane 
Land.** 

Jane smiled. It was the sort of weighty compliment 
she had learned to endure. She turned to Julian. “I 
don’t think I’ve seen you here before, have I?** 

He smiled. “I’ve not been here before. I’d not hope 
that you’d noticed me if I had.’* 

“You’d be surprised,** she said. “I’d have thought to 
myself, there’s somebody diflEerent. I do hope he likes 
me and comes again.** She laughed and added, “They 
would be professional thoughts of course.** 

Risa slid her hand possessively under his arm. “Not 
entirely professional, surely, Jane? I found him you 
know, so I*m immensely pleased with him.** She glanced 
quickly at Raoul, but he was deep in conference with 
the headwaiter. “Wouldn’t you say he was attractive, 
Jane?** 

The young dancer looked at Julian frankly as if she 
considered the question a serious one. “Yes,** she said. 

Raoul was shepherding them to their places; Risa 
said softly to him, “You’re awfully attractive, Julian, 
I*d almost forgotten.*' 


162 



The table was set for six. Raoul sat at the head of 
the table with Jane on his right. Julian was to the right 
of his hostess at the other end. 

Raoul glanced at his watch and frowned a little. “The 
others are late. We won't let them stop us from getting 
on with our cocktails." He leaned toward Jane. “I've 
told them to bring the ones you liked so much last time. 
It's my own recipe. Champagne base. The rest is my 
secret." He spoke down the table to Julian. “In France, 
Ashford, you find the best food and the best wine and 
the worst cocktails." He was faintly patronizing. 

Julian smiled. “In the tropics we find it better to con¬ 
centrate on whisky and gin. There are wives, though, 
who can make good cocktails from what the devil has 
sent them." 

Risa clapped her hands. “There you are, Raoul, and 
you try to tell me that a woman ruins every cocktail she 
puts her hand to!" 

“You must mix one for me," Julian said. 

“I'll make you one just like the wives used to in 
Burma. What would there be in the pantry? There 
would be whisky," she counted on her fingers, “gin, and 
some warm vermouth, rum, lemons and limes, soda and 
sugar. What sort of cocktail would you like?" 

He laughed because she did make the memory sound 
amusing. “I think I'll compromise on a Tom Collins," 
he said. 

She nodded. “I was afraid you would. We'll have beer 
with dinner, I think. Do you think you can trust the 
native beer or should we go on a splurge and have 
bottled Bass?" 


163 



He considered. “They tell me that the native brew is 
quite drinkable. Why don't we have that and save the 
imported stock for an occasion?" 

Her voice rose in artificial protest. “But darling, this 
is an occasion. I'm entertaining you and we haven't met 
for years." 

He looked at her carefully, wondering what game she 
was playing. “Of course. Let's throw care to the winds 
and have the Bass." 

“For dinner we'll have soup and chicken. You do 
understand that we always have that, don't you, Mr. 
Ashford? ... I mean Julian, because we are very old 
friends, aren't we?" 

“Of course, Risa, it would spoil everything if you 
didn't call me Julian after what we've been through." 
In an idiotic way he was excited. So was she. They were 
laughing at something that others could not understand. 

She drew a deep long breath. “And do you know what 
we'll do afterwards? We'll open the bottle of old brandy 
that Uncle Richard sent us last Christmas." 

He protested. “No, we can't do that. After all, Risa, 
your husband is up country, and when it's opened he'll 
want to be here to share it." 

She laughed, “Oh, Julian, you ridiculous darling, 
don't you know that Li Chin down in the bazaar has 
dozens and dozens of bottles of exactly the same brand? 
We can replace it tomorrow and my poor darling angel 
will never know the diflEerence. Aren't I a horrible de¬ 
ceitful, disloyal wife, Julian?" 

“Of course, Risa, but he'll never know and that's the 
point surely. We'll drink your husband's brandy." 

164 



She turned to face him and looked into his eyes. 
“Yes, Julian, let’s do that, let’s drink his brandy.” 

Jane Land clapped her hands. “Wonderful, both of 
you.” Her eyes met Julian’s speculatively and he knew 
that she was seeing something he had not intended to 
be seen. 

“Risa,” Raoul was saying, “if I didn’t know to the 
contrary I would have said that you knew the tropics 
as well as Ashford does.” 

She laughed, and there was an excited undertone. 
“But, darling, I dol I read Somerset Maugham. Surely 
that is how these creatures in the tropics behave, isn’t 
it?” 

Raoul laughed. “Well, I congratulate you both. It 
seems that you have learned how to behave when the 
husband is away, Ashford.” 

“Oh yes,” Julian said. “I’ve learned.” He looked 
again at Jane Land. Her eyes were intense, curious. 

The champagne cocktails had arrived. She raised her 
glass to him in a faint salute and then, as if she were 
condoning a conspiracy, she turned to De Wollfe. 

Risa’s head was bent over her glass. She raised her 
eyes as if by compulsion to look at him. There were 
tears in them. 

“At last,” he heard Raoul say in a tone that mingled 
forgiveness and toleration. 

He turned and saw John and Penelope standing to¬ 
gether in the entrance. John was holding her arm as if 
he realized that she needed his support. 

Raoul walked urgently to meet them. “Penelope, 
John. We had almost given up hoping.” 


165 



John said, “We were held up.” He did not look happy. 
“But we did get here. That is the main thing, isn’t it, 
Penelope?” 

Penelope sat between Raoul and Julian. He noticed 
when she reached for her glass that her hand was shak¬ 
ing. She raised the drink quickly to her lips and drank 
convulsively. 

The others noticed, too, and Risa said quickly, 
“Penelope, are you sure you’re all right?” 

The girl looked from one to the other as if to re¬ 
assure herself. “It was ghastly,” she said, “ghastly.” 

“My dear, what happened?” 

John explained. “The police found another corpse. 
Unfortunately, we were there,” he said. 

There was a passage of silence, and Raoul said softly, 
“You’ll be making yourselves unpopular. Was it some¬ 
body we know?” 

He nodded. “Leon Topolski.” 

“Good Lord.” There might have been a note of relief 
in his voice. “But where on earth did all this happen?” 

John answered tonelessly, “Up at the top of the Grande 
Corniche. It was such a lovely night Penelope asked if 
I’d mind if we drove up over the mountains. When we 
got to the top we saw the lights of some parked cars, 
and somebody waved us to stop. Inspector Vernier was 
there with a squad of underlings. 

“He said he wanted our help in identifying a body. 
I tried to refuse and he said that that seemed to suggest 
that we might know in advance whom we were going 
to see. Then I asked him to let me go alone and he 


166 



said Miss Whitecliffe might be helpful. He took us 
along a rough sort of track till we came to the body.” 

Penelope swept up a hand to shut out the memory 
from her eyes. 

“He was sitting with his back to a rock. At first I 
didn't realize that he was dead. In the light of their 
torches he seemed to be watching and waiting for us 
to arrive . . 

Julian reached out and caught her hand. She turned 
to him and tried to smile. “I don't often behave like 
this.'' 

He said, “There aren't many occasions like this. 
Would you like one of us to drive you home?'' 

She shook her head. “I did ask John to take me home, 
but he said it would make the inspector more suspicious 
than ever if we didn't come here.” 

“But you've done that now.” 

“But I think I'd rather stay. I'd like to—to be with 
people for a while.” She picked up her glass and finished 
her drink. 

“Extraordinary,” Raoul was saying. “I've often sus¬ 
pected that that neurotic would end up by making away 
with himself. I should have been kinder to him.” 

John Keeble looked at him. “He was murdered. He 
didn't commit suicide, Raoul. So there is no need to re¬ 
proach yourself ... on that score.” There was an un¬ 
spoken antagonism between them. “Somebody shoved a 
knife into his back.” 

Risa give a little cry of protest. “Raoul, must we go 
on talking about this dreadful business! Penelope has 
had as much as she can bear.” 


167 



“You are quite right, Risa.” He turned to Julian. 
“Last time we met, that man succeeded in ruining a 
pleasant interlude. I'm damned if I see why we should 
permit him to do it again." He turned to Jane Land. 
“You must think we live very sordid lives over in Nice, 
Jane. Next time you come to see us you'll feel that you 
are slumming." 

Risa touched Julian's arm and said clearly, “Mr. Ash¬ 
ford, now that we are reunited after all those years, 
don't you feel that we should dance? I know it's very 
forward of me, but as your hostess I feel that somebody 
should begin." 

He saw the look of puzzled astonishment on Pene¬ 
lope's face and as he got up he smiled and said to her, 
“While we waited for you, Mrs. de Wollfe and I have 
been playing a game. While her husband was away up 
country she was entertaining me at a little dinner. You 
should have been here, it would have served as a wam- 
mg. 

Penelope said slowly, “Would I have known the 
warning was meant for me?" 

Risa glanced amusedly at the others. “Of course, you 
would, darling. Someday we'll do it again and she'll see 
what we mean, won’t she, Julian?" She put a faint 
accent on the use of his Christian name. She slid into 
his arms as they stepped from the carpet to the dance 
floor. It was a yielding gesture, as if this were something 
she had been waiting for. 

“Poor little Penelope, does she love you very much, 
Julian?" 

He recognized the approach, remembering it so n^pll. 


168 



He even remembered the number of times when it had 
been Poor Little Somebody Else, some attractive girl he 
had danced with or talked to, and he used to say in 
protest, “Risa, how can a girl possibly be in love with 
me when every other word I say reminds them that I 
have a wife that I adore?” 

But this time he said, “I wish I knew. I've not had 
the courage to ask her.” 

She danced intimately, and now and then he could 
feel her upturned lips lightly brush his cheek. “She's 
very young and innocent. Does she invite your con¬ 
fidences, Julian? If she were seriously in love with you, 
you'd have to tell her about your past, wouldn't you?” 

People watched them as they danced. Women envied 
her clothes and her partner. Men tried to remember 
the last time a beautiful woman had looked at them as 
if this were the moment or the lifetime for which they 
were born. 

Julian was saying, “Of course I would have to tell her 
about the past. I'd have to tell her that I was married 
and ask her to be patient till I could get free. And that 
would be quite impossible, wouldn't it, Risa?” 

He could feel her breath softly on his cheek. “Yes, 
that would be utterly impossible. You do realize that, 
don't you, Julian?” 

“Yes, Risa, it would not only be impossible, it would 
be dangerous.” 

Her cheek was touching his, softly. “I'd hate it if 
there were someone else, just when I've found you 
again.” 


169 



CHAPTER FOURTEEN 


\d £N£LOP£ was dancing with Raoul. John had just 
come back to the table with Jane Land, and John at 
once asked Risa to dance with him. Julian moved to 
the chair next to Jane. 

“Would you be bored if we danced?” 

She smiled. “No, I know whom to avoid, I saw you 
dancing with Risa. I like talk, too.” 

“Not flattering.” 

She said flatly, “Mr. Ashford ... no that sounds 
awful . . . Julian; I don't have to flatter you and you 
know it. I watched you and I watched the customers 
watching you; if only for business reasons I should go 
and dance with you. But I won't and do you know why?” 

“Tell me.” 

She looked at him with amused candor. “Because,” 
she said, “all the dowagers in here would say that glam¬ 
orous man danced better with Risa de Wollfe than he 
did with me.” 

“Nonsense,” he said. “Risa is a very good dancer. It's 
your profession.” 


170 



She nodded wisely. “Exactly. Because I am a profes¬ 
sional dancer I know that there is something funny 
about all this. Risa told me she had just discovered 
you, but let me tell you, as an old trouper, that you and 
Risa have danced together before, hundreds of times.” 

“It*s your vivid imagination.” 

She shook her head. “You see, Julian, to me to see 
people dancing is like reading about them in a book. 
You have been dancing together so often that you can 
carry on an intimate personal conversation without miss¬ 
ing a step. I do know. You'll see me dancing with my 
partner in a little while. His name is Hugo Fitchley 
and he's a darling. We dance as if we adored each other 
because we have practiced the routine for two years, but 
we're just friends. But while we are gazing into each 
other's eyes he can tell me the old man who is such a 
pest is in the Club again, and 1 can look at him as if 
I adored him and tell him that the top has come ofiE his 
collar stud. You see what I mean?” 

“I see what you mean, but I can't see why you should 
bother to tell me,” he said. 

She shrugged. “Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a feeling 
that you are too good for the company you keep.” 

He owed no loyalty to Risa, but oddly he felt resent¬ 
ful. “We are both guests at the same party,” he said 
stiffly. 

She answered impatiently, “Of course we are. I'm 
here because I make a nice decoration at Raoul's table. 
I don't know why you are here, but I've read about you 
in the papers. My guess is that you've been hurt once 
and if you aren't very careful. Sir Galahad, you are 


171 



going to be hurt again/' She laughed suddenly, jumped 
up from the uble and seemed to float to her feet “Come 
on, if you promise not to talk, 1 think I might be able 
to dance almost as well as Risa." 

It was not like dancing with Risa, it was like dancing 
with thistledown, and when she smiled at him he realized 
that that was exactly how she intended he should feel. 
As they walked back she said, “You see what I mean, 
Julian, if we had tried to talk you couldn’t have been 
so marvelous, could you?” 

“Was I marvelous?” 

“Quite good, anyway. Are you disillusioned?” 

He shook his head. “No, Jane, grateful. You were 
proving something to me, weren't you?” 

“Yes, about not talking when you are dancing with 
strangers.” She gave him a quiet smile and turned 
toward the table. 

John Keeble was cupping his glass in his hands, warm¬ 
ing the brandy as he rotated it. “Risa deserted me. I 
don’t know why, unless she couldn’t stand the competi¬ 
tion.” He looked across the room and said, “Oh, my 
Lord, Jane, here comes your nemesis.” 

A young man whom Julian recognized as Mrs. Til- 
ford’s nephew was weaving his way between the tables. 
A lock of his blond hair had toppled over his forehead, 
and his eyes were focused purposefully on his destina¬ 
tion. 

As he stood smiling diffidently at Jane Land, there 
was an air of distinction about him; but he gave the 
impression that a line of more robust ancestors had 
left him bankrupt of vitality. “I’m afraid I must seem 

172 



to be butting in/' he said. “I wondered if I might have 
a dance, Jane?" 

None of them had noticed Raoul de Wollfe return 
to the table. When he intervened his voice was coldly 
unwelcoming. "I’m sorry, Charles, but our party is quite 
complete. I'll be happy to invite you to join us some 
other time." 

Charles Tilford turned to Raoul and his voice was 
lazily contemptuous. "I don't know where you learned 
to mimic your betters,” he said. "But even on the stage 
I never liked impersonators.” 

Jane had got up quickly from her chair. She of all 
people could not be involved in a scene where she was 
employed. "I'd love to dance, Charles. It will have to be 
quick though because I have to change for my turn.” 

Raoul watched them walk away. His teeth under his 
white mustache were biting his lower lip. Julian knew 
that Charles Tilford, with the instinct of his kind, had 
known exactly how to hurt him most. Raoul turned back 
to Penelope. "Will you dance with me again?" The 
urgency in his voice made it almost a demand. He had 
to be reassured. All three of his guests knew that his 
first reaction must be to rehabilitate his vanity. 

Penelope looked doubtfully at Julian; he had not 
danced with her. 

He smiled and said, "You are too popular.” 

He watched them go onto the floor and turned to 
find John Keeble looking at him thoughtfully. "Trying 
to fit us into a pattern, aren't you, Julian? But we don't 
run true to form down here. We improvise, like Raoul 
did, we keep up the facade. Amazing, isn’t it, that 

173 



Charles should have known exactly where to hit him 
where it hurt/’ He smiled as if amused at himself. “And 
now you and I are left deprived of the only woman we 
both love. Has it occurred to you that you and I are 
the ones who should be quarreling? This is the second 
time in our lives that a woman has bewitched us both. 
Why don’t we do the traditional thing and go to the 
bar and have a drink?” 

They walked toward the bar, and left the table de¬ 
serted. 

“Risa is offering her condolences to the old lady who 
was robbed of her diamonds.” John nodded to a table 
where a plump, homely woman was talking to Risa. 
“Mrs. Fitchley is quite a character. I suppose she did 
have so many diamonds that she deserved to be robbed. 
That’s what people always say when someone else is 
robbed, in these parts.” As if on an impulse he added, 
“Come over and meet her. We can rescue Risa.” 

Mrs. Fitchley welcomed them with the almost pathetic 
eagerness with which an old woman often welcomes a 
young man. Julian saw nothing wrong with it unless 
there was something wrong in loneliness. He saw that 
John was a favorite of hers and that she looked pleased 
when he kissed her hand. “Helen Fitchley, you’ve been 
avoiding me,” he reproached her. 

When she was introduced to Julian, she said, “John 
and I have a little secret between us. We both know 
how sadly easy it is to flatter old ladies, but of course 
we don’t deceive each other for a moment and, bless 
his heart, he never pretends that 1 am not an old lady. 


174 



He pretends that he loves me in spite of it, which is 
much nicer, you know.” 

A young man came to the table and put his arm across 
Mrs. Fitchley's shoulder. He said, “Risa, you couldn't 
look more beautiful.” 

Risa touched her lips to him and said, “Hugo, if ever 
you fail to say something nice to me I'll die. Your mother 

is trading on her age again, and nobody will talk to 
** 

me. 

“I know,” he said, and laughed. “Mother has decided 
that she is the mother of the human race. She pretends 
that she comes here to watch Jane and me dance, which 
is nonsense. She regards herself as the unofficial chap¬ 
erone of every theatrical performer from here to 
Cannes.” 

Mrs. Fitchley put Hugo's hand briefly to her cheek. 
“I've been doing it for thirty years; first in your father's 
day and now in yours. If it weren't for people like me, 
Hugo, the professional entertainers would be worthless 
as their patrons.” She looked up at him more intimately. 
“Jane is dancing with that boy, Charles, whatever his 
name is, and I don't think she's enjoying it. Go along 
and rescue her, Hugo, in a nice way, and remind her 
that your turn is coming.” She patted her son's hand 
in dismissal. “You haven't much time, Hugo.” 

John said, “Mrs. Fitchley, I wanted to tell you how 
sorry I am about the robbery.” 

Without being aware of it, the old lady passed the 
fingers of one hand over the backs of those on the other, 
then raised them still searching to her neck, as if half- 


175 



expecting to find a necklace. “I lost everything, yes,*' 
she said slowly. 

“Raoul and I are terribly upset," Risa put in. “Be¬ 
cause it happened while you were on your way to our 
house makes us feel that somehow we are to blame. 
I wish now that we hadn't decided to have the party. 
We hadn't till we telephoned you at four." 

“You mustn't feel that way, dear, and you did warn 
me about wearing my diamonds in public, but you see 
they meant so much to me. . . . My husband gave them 
to me." 

“They were insured, Helen?" 

“Yes, of course." • 

John was looking over across the dance floor. “In¬ 
spector Vernier is coming across. He may have some 
news for you, Mrs. Fitchley." 

The inspector had changed into what might be charit¬ 
ably described as evening clothes. He looked rather 
pointedly at the other men. “I am sorry to disturb you, 
Mrs. Fitchley. I would like a few words with you." 

The other three stood up, but the old lady put a hand 
on Risa's arm. “Do stay with me, dear. I get so con¬ 
fused with the questions, and without your help. I'll be 
no better than I was last night." 

The inspector seemed about to object, then he bowed 
and waited for Risa to sit down again. 

There was still nobody at their own table. The two 
men walked to the bar. Charles was there, staring 
fixedly at an empty glass. 

He looked up when they spoke, and focused his eyes 
on them carefully. “Gentlemen," he said, “you see me 


176 



in a classic posture. Here you see the rejected suiter 
consoling himself with the demon grog.” 

“You seem to be having quite an evening,” Julian 
said. “Your aunt told me I might meet you here.” 

“Beloved auntie. Has she enlisted your services in 
her . . . her crusade to reform the wayward youth? You 
know, Ashford, there is one nice thing about being a 
wayward youth, everyone thinks so much about your 
coming to a bad end that you don’t have to think about 
it yourself. You don’t have to bother at all. Everything 
is provided for.” 

“We thought of sitting at a quiet table and having a 
drink. Why not join us?” Julian said. 

John was showing an interest in Charles that seemed 
to be producing little reward. “Listen, Charles,” he said, 
after the waiter had left them, “why don’t you face the 
fact that it's quite hopeless? Jane is a perfect darling, 
but she has her bread and butter to earn. Why don’t 
you leave it at that?” 

“Whatl After all I’ve done for Jane?” 

John smiled. “Interesting. What have you done for 
her?” 

“Sold myself to the devil,” he said morosely. 

“You must be a good salesman. What did you get for 
yourself?” 

Julian felt that the baiting had gone far enough. John 
seemed to realize that he was about to protest and put 
a hand on his arm. “Go on, Charles, tell us what the 
devil thought you were worth?” 

Charles looked at John. The lines in his thin face 

177 



were tightly drawn. “You don’t think I’m worth much, 
do you?” he asked aggressively. 

“Not much.” 

“You are quite wrong. Once a man gets into the mood 
when he is ready to stop at nothing, he is worth a great 
deal. But first you have to get over a hurdle, quite a 
large hurdle, and into the open country on the other 
side, and then you can really see how valuable you are. 
Some people call it the pale, beyond the pale. Once you 
get there, everything is all right.” He laughed harshly. 
“Or all wrong, it doesn’t really matter which.” 

John looked at him thoughtfully. “It must have taken 
a lot of outside help to get you over the last hurdle, 
Charles.” 

The young man laughed. “I was under the whip, 
certainly. Now I’m happy to say I’m running under a 
free rein.” 

The waiter brought their drinks and put the check 
on the table. Julian reached out to pick it up but 
Charles forstalled him. “Oh, no, no,” he said. “This is 
mine.” 

John looked at Julian and shrugged. Charles took a 
wallet from his inside pocket. “Unlimited entertainment 
allowance,” he said. He was fumbling with notes when 
it fell from the wallet: a diamond ring that lay glitter¬ 
ing on the table between them. 

John reached out and picked it up, turning it between 
his fingers. 

Charles was staring at the diamond. “She turned it 
down,” he said. “Absolutely pushed it back across the 
table when I tried to give it to her.” 

178 



John looked up from the ring to the young man op¬ 
posite. “Do you mean to say that you actually offered 
this ring to Jane Land?” 

“Naturally, when one loves a lady, one offers her a 
ring, sort of thing that's been happening from time 
immemorial.” 

“Did she recognize it?” 

“Well, naturally, any girl would recognize a ring 
when it was offered to her. I told you, she pushed it 
away and wouldn't look at it.” 

“Did she put it on her finger?” He was testing it on 
his own. 

“No. She pushed it away, but I wanted her to put it 
on because 1 knew it would be too big and 1 thought 
she might want to change the setting. A man I know 
would have done the work for me.” 

“What shop does he work in?” 

Charles looked at him with something like pity. “You 
don't go to a shop for a job like this, particularly in a 
place like Nice. These fashionable places rob you.” 

“Well, where did you find him?” John's voice was 
edged with contemptuous anger. 

“Where you would never think of looking, dear boy. 
This chap is a student in Penelope's school. The poor 
devil has been hounded all over Europe and now he 
wants to make a fresh start in France. He explained how 
you can have jewelry reset at a quarter the price most 
people pay, and when he is finished with it not even the 
owner would recognize it as the same job. Amazing, 
isn't it.” 

“He has no shop?” 


179 



“Not yet. I understand that he takes the work home 
to his room . . . homework, as you might say.“ He 
laughed. 

Julian Ashford was thinking of the brisk little woman 
who was sitting in the hotel taking care of Tyler; think¬ 
ing of Penelope Whitecliffe*s school. He knew, too, that 
he had been underestimating John Keeble. Penelope's 
new French master was watching Charles Tilford as if 
every next move were going to be a surprise to him. 

“Charles, did you know that Jane was a friend of Mrs. 
Fitchley's?" 

“Naturally. Her son is Jane's dancing partner. You 
aren't suggesting that there is anything between Jane 
and Hugo, are you, because I took the trouble to find 
that out.'' 

“Did Jane tell you that Mrs. Fitdhiley had her dia¬ 
monds stolen?" 

“I hadn't the slightest idea, what bad luck." 

“It's been in all the newspapers." 

“I can't read enough French to enjoy the local gossip. 
As a linguist I'm not awfully bright, as you quite well 
know." 

John held up the ring between his thumb and fore¬ 
finger. “Charles, Mrs. Fitchley is sitting over there wait¬ 
ing for her son. Look, she is sitting talking to Inspector 
Vernier. Why don't you take this ring across tp her and 
ask if it is hers?" He let it lay in his palm as he held it 
out." 

Charles' jaw fell loosely and he shrank away from 
John's hand. “I don't know . . 

“No," John said. “That's the trouble with you. You 


180 



don't even know about those hurdles you are talking 
about. You were asking Jane to go and sit at Mrs. 
Fitchley's table and show her the ring you had stolen 
from her, and you wanted Jane to tell Mrs. Fitchley 
that it was your engagement ring." He stood up. "All 
right, Charles. It's not too late. Look, Jane and Hugo 
are coming back to the table. If only because you came 
from the same country that I do, I like to see how you 
behave. We'll go with you." 

Charles tugged the lapels of his dinner jacket into 
shape as he stood up. He took the ring from John's 
hand. 

The three men stood before Mrs. Fitchley's table. 
Jane Land and Hugo were looking on as if something 
were happening they did not quite understand. Inspector 
Vernier was watching intently. 

Charles took a step forward as if he had been deputed 
to speak. "Mrs. Fitchley," he said. "This ring ... I love 
Jane and I tried to give it to her as an engagement ring. 
I think it's yours." 

She grasped it eagerly. But then she looked up into 
his white face. She handed it back to him and said tone- 
lessly, "My engagement ring was much less expensive, 
Charles, but it was much more precious." 

He passed a hand across his eyes and without speaking 
turned and walked back to the table at the bar. He 
waited for them to come back. His voice was brittle 
with anger. "That was not very funny, Keeble." 

John looked at him in vague surprise. "Funny. It was 
not intended to be." 


181 



“If Jane had not been there I might have forgiven 
you.” 

“You knew that ring had been stolen?” 

“You said it had been stolen from Mrs. Fitchley. That 
was a lie.” 

John shook his head. “If somebody forced Mrs. Fitch¬ 
ley to tell why she denied that the ring was hers, she 
would say that she had a son of her own. Unfortunately 
for you, Mrs. Fitchley's soft heart can't save you. Every 
jeweler from here to Marseilles has a description of her 
jewelry. If the police haven't a good description of them, 
the insurance companies most certainly have.” 

Charles was sober enough to be frightened. “What do 
you expect me to do?” 

“Talk. Nobody would be fool enough to believe that 
you could plan a jewel robbery. But there are a lot of 
people who want to know who did plan it.” 

“I don't know who planned it. All I know is that I 
was told what to do.” 

“Who told you?” 

“Leon Topolski.” 

Leon Topolski . . . Charles had talked about getting 
over the last hurdle. Julian wondered if he realized 
what a yawning chasm was ahead of him now. “If you 
don't know already, Charles,” he said soberly, “I think 
it's only fair to tell you now that Topolski has been 
murdered.” 

Charles' hands fumbled out and gripped the edge of 
the table. He gave a travesty of a laugh. “You're trying 
to frighten me.” 

“You are quite frightened enough,” John said. “Is 


182 



that because you didn’t have to be told that he was 
dead?” 

”No ... I didn’t even see him.” 

“Go on.” 

“He telephoned me. He had told me a few days ago 
that he would help me to earn some money.” 

“What did he say you had to do?” 

“Drive a car, that’s all, and I’ll swear that that’s all 
I did do.” 

John leaned forward and said curiously, “It was my 
car, wasn’t it?” 

“Yes. I didn’t know what was happening, so I thought 
you must be in on it too. He said that your car would 
be around the corner from your house, parked by the 
curb. I was to drive along Route 7 in the direction of 
Antibes, and when I came opposite that little place 
where they have the bird shop, a man would signal me 
as if he wanted a lift. From then on he would tell me 
what to do. He promised all I would have to do would 
be to drive the car, and I swear to you that’s all I did 
do.” 

“Go on.” 

“This man was waiting. He got into the car and told 
me to drive on and take the road to St. Paul. It was 
pretty deserted when we left the main road, and he told 
me to stop and wait. He watched the cars that were 
passing till a black old-fashioned one came along, driven 
by a chauffeur. He said, ‘That’s it, go get ahead of it 
and then stop and see that you are blocking the road.’ 

“I stopped and as the other car came around the 
comer he jumped out and ran back. I heard him say 


183 



how sorry he was that we were blocking the road, but 
that we’d had a blowout and like fools we had come 
out without a wheel jack. I heard the old chauffeur 
muttering and grumbling as he heaved himself out of 
his seat. He walked to the back of his car and opened 
the luggage compartment, and then I saw him fall onto 
the road. The man with me must have hit him. Then 
he opened the rear door of the limousine. I thought I 
heard a cry. Then he came running back to the car. I 
could see the reflections of other car lights coming up 
the road, but we got away easily because the limousine 
was blocking the road. He began taking the diamonds 
from his pockets and 1 realized that I had got mixed 
up in a robbery.” 

“Clever of you,” John Keeble said. 

“It was exciting after that.” He grinned briefly at 
John. “That’s a very nice car you have. We had to make 
a bypass or two but we were back in Nice in no time. 
I dropped him near the airport.” 

“And he walked off with the loot?” 

Charles shook his head. “No, as we approached the 
airport, he asked me if I had been told what to do next. 
I told him I was doing nothing next, I had been hired 
to drive the car and that was that. 

“He told me that I was to take the diamonds to the 
Whitecliffe school and go to the washroom. He said that 
Topolski’s locker would be open and there would be a 
dispatch case inside it, I was to put the jewels in there 
and lock the door and then put the car back in the 
garage where it came from. He walked away and pre¬ 
sumably he went to the airport.” 


184 



“And you did what he told you?” 

“Well, naturally. I was being paid to do a job and I 
did it.” 

“And you were paid?” 

“Oh yes, I forgot to mention it, the money was wait¬ 
ing in the dispatch case in Topolski's locker.” 

“Brilliant.” 

“Yes,” Charles said. “It was, rather, I thought.” 

Julian was thinking of Mrs. Tilford, waiting in the 
hotel with his son. “Has it occurred to you,” he said, 
“that two people could support this story of yours? One 
of them need never have existed and the other has been 
murdered, and what's more, you have turned up here 
tonight with a ring that is part of the loot.” 

Charles answered stubbornly, “I found the ring in 
my pocket after I had put the rest of the stuff where I 
was told to. Tonight, after I'd had a few drinks, I 
thought how wonderful it would be to be able to give 
something really beautiful to Jane.” 

He took it from his pocket and handed it to John. 
“You keep it,” he said. “If Jane is not interested, neither 
am I.” He looked from one to the other of them. “I 
admit all this was stupid of me, but let's face it. I didn't 
do anything but take this man for a drive in your car, 
John. And you know as well as I do that people are 
continually borrowing other people's cars.” 

His excuse might have been that of a seven-year-old 
child, but obviously he expected them to take it seri¬ 
ously. He seemed glad to have unburdened his troubles 
to people stronger than himself. His own glass was 
empty. He reached out for Julian's and emptied it. 


185 



‘Tou put the jewels in Topolski’s locker?” John asked. 

Charles nodded. “Of course. I'm not a thief.” He 
brightened. “Look here, you know, I’d not the slightest 
idea that it was Mrs. Fitchley that man was robbing. 
Why don’t you go back to the school and collect the 
stuff and give it back to her? After all, she’s a friend, 
one doesn’t let that sort of thing happen to one’s own 
people. I confess I did get some cash for the job but 
after all . . .” His voice trailed off indefinitely. 

John Keeble said, “I’ll drive you back to the school 
and see what we can find.” 

Charles looked doubtful. “Must we? Quite frankly, 
I’d just as soon wash my hands of the whole thing. But 
if you insist, I don’t mind.” 

John turned to Julian. “He has something that passes 
for a car. I’ll drive him back. He drove mine, why 
shouldn’t I drive his?” He handed Julian the keys of 
his own car. “Take care of Penelope and don’t go up 
over the Grande Corniche.” 

Julian watched him walk away from the bar. John 
Keeble might have been a hero or a villain, but which¬ 
ever he was, there would be people to admire him. 


186 



CHAPTER FIFTEEN 


J H£ light shone on her face, light and shadow, as 
they turned through the quick changes from the bright 
villages to the echoing solitude of a road carved through 
the cliffs. 

“We didn't dance," he said. 

“I understood." Her voice sounded tense. “Why 
should you dance with me? It must have been exciting, 
just you two knowing—nobody else. Not her husband, 
just you two sharing the past. I understand, you don't 
have to explain." 

“I know I don't have to explain, Penelope," he said. 
“That hadn't occurred to me." 

“But shouldn't you both have been a little fright¬ 
ened?" 

“Perhaps. But you see, Penelope, that's how Risa 
wants her life to be, a little frightening." 

“It must have been exciting," she said. “Living with 
her." 

“Perhaps it was; but Risa's excitement always in¬ 
volves somebody's being hurt." 


187 



She didn't answer but leaned back with her head 
against the cushion. She drew a long breath and ex¬ 
pended it in a tired sigh. “I could drive like this for¬ 
ever. Please don't hurry." 

"I'm driving at twenty miles an hour," he said. "If I 
go any slower I'll stop. Shall I?" 

"Yes, a little way along there's a place where you look 
down over the sea." 

It was a small recess, with enough room to park one 
car. He turned into it and stopped the engine. The 
silence was complete. There was a gulf of velvet dark¬ 
ness at their feet and a still perfection of stars above 
their heads. 

"The cliffs here are red," she told him, "and the sea 
away down below is deep blue with little white mark¬ 
ings like lace." 

"You love it here, don't you, Penelope?" he asked 
gently. 

Without moving she said, "I've lived here all my life. 
I've traveled to lots of other places and I went to school 
in England, but in the back of my mind there is this, the 
sea and the red rocks and the pink villas and the sounds 
of people's voices. They always seem to be doing things 
in the most muddling sort of way, and all of a sudden 
what they are doing is finished and it's lovely and differ¬ 
ent from anything else. That seems nonsense to you, 
doesn't it?" 

"I don't know it as you do. I don't think I want to. 
I prefer it like this. I know that the sea is down there 
and you say the cliffs are red, but when I go away I 
won't remember the details. I'll remember that we 


188 



stopped here and I'll remember how quiet it was. It's 
a silly thing to say, but you know whenever I see the 
same stars I'll remember the scent of your hair." 

"Will you remember how much you wanted to get 
away from all of us?" 

He said quietly, "That will be diflEerent. You and I 
are not in Monte Carlo now. We aren't in Nice either. 
Don't you see that at this moment we are not any¬ 
where?" 

"But we can't stay." 

"No, darling, we can't stay," he said soberly. 

Her head was close to his shoulder. He touched her 
hair with his lips, and she raised a hand and let it lie 
in surrender on his shoulder. Childlike and at rest. To 
love, he thought, you don't have to make love, you keep 
it like this and like this till it is no longer bearable; wait 
without movement till it is no longer tolerable. Wait 
because never again will it have this enchantment. 

The lights of a swiftly moving car were sweeping the 
curves of the cliffside, out into space and back to the 
naked rock. And then suddenly they found Julian and 
Penelope as if they were illuminating a stage. Sharply, 
briefly—and there was a little shudder of restless air as 
the car swept by. Raoul's chauffeur was sitting upright 
at the wheel and they saw that Risa had turned and 
was looking back at them through the rear window. 

Julian reached forward and pressed the starter. He 
lifted her hand and touched it to his lips. "You see what 
I mean, Penelope?" 

Without answering, she moved away and waited for 

189 



him to start. She sat rigidly with her face turned half 
away, but he could see she was crying. 

He told Mrs. Tilford that he had seen Charles at the 
Sporting Club. 

She accepted it without comment, but at the door she 
asked, **How badly did he conduct himself? You sound 
a bit vague about it.” 

Charles was her nephew but he might have been her 
son. “I think he's very much in love with Miss Land,” 
he said. “I can't blame him.” 

She nodded. ”It's very sad. Charles would never real¬ 
ize thiat she is so much stronger than he is and that was 
why she attracted him.” 

“He's at home now,” Julian said. “John drove him 
back from Monte Carlo.” 

“John would,” she shrugged. “John is ridiculous and 
clever and very strong. Sheltered women dream of hav¬ 
ing boys like him. It makes them frightened and proud 
as if they had an invitation to a laughing dangerous 
world.” 

Julian Ashford knew how dangerous that world could 
be. 


190 



CHAPTER SIXTEEN 


UNSPECTOR vernier telephoned Julian early and 
asked him to come to the school. 

The grounds seemed filled with police. They were 
searching methodically. Julian watched for a while, then 
he joined the inspector who was staring at the newly 
raked gravel at his feet. “I won't ask if you are searching 
for something, that would be too obvious,” Julian said. 

The inspector raised his unfriendly eyes. “Perhaps 
you also know what we are searching for, monsieur?” 

“I haven't a notion.” 

“And why we are searching in this place?” 

“It may be stupid of me. Inspector, but I don't know 
that either.” 

“We are looking for a knife, Mr. Ashford; with a thin 
curved blade seven inches long.” 

“Well, at least you know precisely what you are look¬ 
ing for.” He looked again at the small army of searchers. 
“To find it must be quite important to you.” 

“Quite important. . . Unless I have found it already.” 



He whipped a knife from his pocket and held it out in 
his palm. “Have you seen this before, monsieur?’' 

Julian nodded. “I have seen a number quite like it. I 
spent some time in Burma. You’ll probably find that this 
one comes from there.” He shrugged. “On the other 
hand it may be an imitation. They sell all manner of 
junk to the tourists out there.” 

“Have you seen one recently?” 

Julian said casually, “As a matter of fact, I have seen 
two. John Keeble has one, I think, and there was one 
in a little antique dealer’s place in the Rue de France. 
Is that the one you’ve been showing me?” 

“The one I showed you I brought away from Mr. 
Keeble’s house an hour ago. I may tell you it fits pre¬ 
cisely the wound in the back of Leon Topolski.” 

“Leon Topolski? But surely you found his body some¬ 
where in the hills on the road to Monte Carlo?” 

The inspector nodded. “Precisely, sitting comfortably 
with his back against the rock, in a position where no¬ 
body could possibly have stabbed him in the back.” 

“But what particular reason have you for searching 
for the knife here?” 

“Because of what we found in his clothes, monsieur; 
fragments of gravel that were identical with what you 
see on this driveway.” 

“I don’t see anything very odd in that,” Julian said. 
“Please ...” He reached down and ran a finger and 
thumb around the cuff of the inspector’s trousers and 
produced several small flakes of stone. “You have col¬ 
lected fragments in your own clothes, but you have not 
been murdered here.” 


192 



Vernier darkened angrily. “I am beginning to wonder 
why you are so anxious to interfere,” he said. “But what 
we found in his clothes could only have got there if he 
had been lying face down on the ground.” 

Julian Ashford told himself angrily that Vernier was 
quite right. He had been interfering in things that were 
none of his business, but a dogged insistence made him 
say, “I can't say that he did trip on a step and go spraw¬ 
ling into the drive. Inspector, and you can't say that he 
didn't. I've no wish to interfere with your investigations. 
You seem to have forgotten that when you dragged me 
back to this place I was about to go away on a perfectly 
straightforward business assignment. You ask me ques¬ 
tions and you become annoyed when I don't give you 
what you consider should be the correct answers.” He 
looked over the smooth drive. ‘*1 must say that I see no 
evidence of a death struggle here.” 

“No, monsieur, because a half-blind and not clever 
servant comes every morning with a rake and a hose 
to remove all the untidy traces of the day before. You 
may or may not have known it, but you see I still have 
reason to believe that Topolski was murdered here.” 

Julian knew that something else was coming, just as 
he knew that Vernier had not ordered him to come to 
the school for the doubtful pleasure of his company. 

“I think he was killed here, Mr. Ashford. He called 
you from the school, and you are the last person we 
know who spoke to him before he was killed.” 

“Oh yes.” He replied as if what he had heard was of 
academic interest only. What he knew now made it un- 


193 



important. His mind was eng^ed with what it had 
grasped so suddenly. 

“Do you deny that Leon Topolski telephoned you at 
your apartment?” 

A wariness made him reply, “Somebody who identified 
himself as Topolski telephoned me, yes.” 

“He said he had an appointment with Miss White- 
diffe and she was not there,” the inspector told him. 

He dragged his mind back from his other problem to 
a sense of danger. “You are having my line tapped?” 

The inspector shrugged. “He asked to speak to John 
Keeble and he was not there. When Mr. Keeble did 
come to your apartment he stayed only a little while, 
and you went out together. You crossed the garden to¬ 
gether as if you had a destination in mind. I think you 
came here, Mr. Ashford.” 

“And murdered Leon Topolski?” 

The inspector's cigarette dropped over his lower lip. 
“I think that is quite possible,” he said finally. 

“As a matter of interest,” Julian said, “I encountered 
Topolski twice. Once you know of, in the school. The 
other time was when Raoul de Wollfe invited me to 
have an aperitif with him. Topolski came and stood at 
our table for a few minutes. Can you think of any reason 
why I should want to kill him?” 

“Yes,” Inspector Vernier said, “I can think of a reason 
because I know a hundred people like Topolski. If he 
knew something in your life that gave him a hold over 
you, he would make your life intolerable.” 

There was another pause. Julian was thinking of 
Charles and his story of Topolski acting for somebody 


194 



unknown, and of the mysterious stranger who robbed 
the old woman and then handed over the loot and 
disappeared. 

But the inspector was not thinking of Charles. “Natu¬ 
rally we are checking on the past of each of you. I have 
a feeling that we may discover for ourselves some of the 
things you have forgotten to tell us.” 

Julian was aware of a coldness spreading through 
his limbs. “We all have a past of one kind or another,” 
he said. He turned to watch the men methodically 
combing the grounds for something he knew they would 
not find. Not there, but the procedure could be dupli¬ 
cated anywhere. They would search the past as methodi¬ 
cally as they were searching this garden. He knew now 
that he had hardly any time. 


195 



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 


ULIAN had lunch with John Keeble on the Quays. 
They sat out of doors under the awnings at a congested 
little table. A trick cyclist was performing on the open 
space across the road. The fishermen were putting their 
brown nets to dry in the bright sunshine. 

John lighted a cigarette and said, “The police have 
been taking our Academy for Earnest Foreigners seri¬ 
ously.” 

“So I noticed.” 

“Paying particular attention to souvenirs of Leon 
Topolski.” 

“Did they find the diamonds?” 

“Naturally not. I'd been there before them.” He 
frowned. “But then I didn't find them either.” 

“Perhaps the murderer did.” 

John shook his head doubtfully. “It's possible. In that 
dispatch case Topolski left in his locker, there were 
some books with false backs that had a space inside the 
binding. They were obviously designed for smuggling. 
Also they found he was packed and ready to depart, 

196 



and his passport and an autobus ticket for San Remo 
over the Italian border in his case.” 

“But surely it would be risky smuggling diamonds 
over the border immediately after a robbery a few miles 
away?” 

John shrugged. “He was choosing the best way. No¬ 
body takes much account of these local busses that go 
backward and forward over the border. They are always 
jammed with the local peasantry that never for genera¬ 
tions have taken much notice of which side they live 
on. To search the bags and bundles and bottles and hen 
coops and heaven knows what, you’d need an army. If 
you or I were going that way we’d be noticed, but Leon 
would look no difiEerent from all the rest of them, and 
that poor struggling student of French could speak the 
local patois with every smallest inflection from Toulon 
to Genoa.” 

“So he was going to smuggle the diamonds across the 
border?” 

“I think that was one idea. I think somebody else 
had others. Perhaps the idea was to let him get away 
across the border and leave the police with the impres¬ 
sion that he had taken the diamonds with him. They’d 
know that if the police got hold of Charles Tilford they 
could beat or frighten out of him a confession that he 
had put the diamonds in Topolski's dispatch case. Leon 
had disappeared and the police would have a mysterious 
tip that he had crossed the border.” 

“In that case why kill him?” 

John frowned. “I don’t quite know; but I think that 

197 



somebody was trying to kill two birds with the one 
stone I One precious stone.” 

“They've killed one, which one do you suppose is the 
other?” ^ 

“Perhaps I am. As the police could reasonably say, I 
have a lot to explain.” 

Julian had a habit of taking statements at their face 
value. “Yes,” he said. “You were at the Casino when 
Mr. WhitecliflEe was killed, and you stepped into his job. 
You were the only one who knew much about Topolski 
and his background. Your car was presumably used at 
the robbery and you very quickly recognized that ring 
as Mrs. Fitchley's.” He smiled and said, “You did ask 
for this.” 

“Yes, go on. You sound like a lawyer who knows that 
his client is guilty, but is going to do his best on the 
great day. What next?” 

“You were a friend of Topolski's, so he could have 
told you that he was going to play a part in the robbery. 
I would guess that he was not a very strong character. 
You lived and behaved in a way that he might have 
wanted to do himself.” 

Unusually serious, John said, “I used to say at one 
time, when we were students, that his papers were better 
than mine and that it didn't make the least difiEerence 
what our backgrounds were.” 

“And what did he say to that?” 

“He didn't believe a word of it, I'm afraid.” 

“And did you?” 

“I tried to.” He added with amused self-contempt, “I 
didn't believe a word of it either.” 

198 



Julian nodded and said, “Naturally, you would have 
been quite disconcerted if you had convinced him. We 
are all alike. I imagine that even Charles Tilford, value¬ 
less as he is, thinks he is better than somebody as bril¬ 
liant as Topolski." 

John looked surprised. “Yes, as we drove back last 
night I was trying to think of ways of saving Charles. 
His aunt . . . “ 

Julian interrupted. “If you had never met his aunt it 
would have been the same.“ 

John looked uncomfortable. “You are not suggesting 
that Charles might have had anything to do with Topol- 
ski's murder?“ 

“I don't know. You may even be talking about Charles 
to take attention from yourself. Inspector Vernier re¬ 
minded me this morning that this Topolski telephoned 
from the school and asked for you. He'd tried to find 
you at home and you weren't there. A little later you 
came to my apartment, and when I gave you the mes¬ 
sage you said at once you’d go to the school and see if 
everything was all right. And then when we got there, if 
you remember, you left it to me to find the body.'' 

“Perhaps you were looking for it,'' John said slowly. 

Julian nodded. “Perhaps. But you know if you really 
went there with the idea that there was something sus¬ 
picious in the telephone call, you yourself should have 
been more observant.” 

“I was thinking of Penelope.” John's eyes turned 
speculatively to Julian. “In fact I had the impression 
that we were both thinking of her at that time.” 

There was a fairly long pause. 


199 



“Perhaps 1 was,” Julian said quietly and added, “But 
I’ve learned to look where I’m going.” 

Julian reached out and took the bill from the plate. 
He counted the unfamiliar money carefully and added 
the tip. “What would you have done if you’d found the 
diamonds in Topolski’s locker?” he asked. 

“I had an idea that I might have them dropped 
through the old lady’s letterbox. She’d have been happy 
and anxious to forget the whole thing. Vernier would 
not exactly have dropped the case, but he would have 
turned his whole attention on the murders. You see, in 
the case of a jewel robbery, it’s the insurance companies 
that put most pressure on the police, and they have 
more influence than you’d think.” 

“So your only idea was to help Charles?” Julian asked 
skeptically. 

“It would be no disaster in my life if Charles brushed 
up his French in gaol. But, you see, Charles is too weak 
to be trusted at the Palais de Justice. Inside an hour he 
would have told all and more. They would have con¬ 
vinced him that the mysterious stranger who committed 
the robbery and used my car was none other than John 
Keeble himself. To catch and convict a poor sap like 
Charles would be no very long feather in Vernier’s cap. 
But if he had the robbery and me and two murders all 
wrapped up in the same package, he’d probably buy 
himself a cigar.” He laughed. 

Julian though of this as he walked in the direction 
of the school. He had promised to collect Tyler and 
take him to a cowboy film with the dialogue in its 
original English. He also thought to himself how nice it 

200 



would be if life were like a cowboy film, where life began 
one day and ended the next, where the hero just shot 
the villain and rode off in a cloud of dust and didn’t 
even bother to kiss anybody, all the sinners dead or in 
gaol and only the goodies at large, including the cattle 
and the girl. 

He was walking under the trees along a back street 
of Nice, one of the sedate ones where elderly French in 
somber attire bow to each other and try to preserve a 
little of what is timeless in a scurrying world. 

Mrs. Tilford was almost abreast of him before he 
noticed her. She was carrying a newspaper, reading as 
she walked very slowly. There were tears in her eyes. 

“Mrs. Tilford.” 

“Oh,” she stopped and brushed her hand with an 
angry gesture across her eyes. 

He turned his head away. He knew that she would not 
want him to see her tears. “I'm just going to the school 
to collect Tyler,” he said. 

She raised her eyes to his now, and they were open 
and uncompromising as ever. “You should have told me 
about Charles,” she said. “I knew of course that you 
were keeping something back from me. I hoped that it 
was just something indiscreet.” 

She handed him the newspaper. There was a wooden 
seat under one of the trees. He took her arm and guided 
her to it. 

There was very little new in the paper, but there was 
a picture of John’s car, with John at the wheel, obvi¬ 
ously borrowed from one of the social pages because 
there was a girl sitting beside him. 


201 



The story told how this car had been identified at the 
scene of the robbery, but it also said that messenger boy 
had seen it standing near Mr. Keeble's residence and 
had seen a man who was not Mr. Keeble drive it away. 
The description he gave of the man left no doubt that 
he was a very observant boy. He described Charles* long 
face and blond hair and his tall languid figure and the 
aged Savile Row sports clothes. It was too easy, Charles 
was too obvious. The boy was even able to say he had 
seen him with the students at the Whitecliffe school. 

He folded the paper and handed it back to her. 
“You think it was Charles?** 

She answered with nervous emphasis, “Of course it 
was Charles. The police came to the school and took 
him away ... an hour ago.** 

Her hand was lying in surrender on the paper on her 
lap. He tried to convey a reassurance he did not feel. 
“Don*t worry Mrs. Tilford, I don*t think Charles is very 
much of a villain. He*s an incredible young fool.** 

She turned to face him honestly. “What I cannot bear 
is the thought that John might have been using him. 
That would shatter a lot of things that all my life I 
have believed in.** 

“I don*t believe that he did,’* Julian said. 

“They used his car. There is a murder also involved 
in this, Mr. Ashford. Charles could never do that.** Her 
eyes as she looked at him were bleak with despair. “But 
John could. I know his background. I know his people, 
all of them. John belongs to another century, to a time 
when they had other words for their deeds. It was not 
killing, but bloodletting.** 


202 



For some reason he was angry. “So you think that 
John crept up on that wretched student and stabbed 
him in the back?” 

“Is that what happened?” 

“That is precisely what happened.” 

The old lady gave her usual characteristic jerk at the 
lapels of her tweed jacket. “In that case it was not John 
who killed him.” 

She was exasperating. “That conclusion may not be 
very helpful to Charles.” 

“Neither of them are capable of it.” 

“Can you think of anybody who might be capable of 
it?” 

She looked at him and said, “Yes, Mr. Ashford, I 
think you could be. Those two boys are my own people. 
IVe seen them grow up. If I had to choose between 
them and you, I would of course stick by Charles and 
John.” 

Sitting with an elderly lady in a quiet street the con¬ 
versation was absurd and yet they were both quite seri¬ 
ous. 

“You think I might have done it?” 

“I think,” she said, “if you felt it necessary to kill 
somebody or some animal in the jungle quietly, you 
wouldn't wait to decide whether it was cricket or not.” 
She looked at him shrewdly. “Have you done it before?” 

His mind went back to the nightmare of silence in the 
jungle when he was carrying Tyler on his back; to the 
times when you struck first or not at all. “Yes,” he said, 
“I have done it before, Mrs. Tilford.” 

She nodded as if she understood and sympathized. 

203 



“We fight for our own even to the point where killing 
becomes a habit. I understand that and, God forgive me, 
sometimes I admire it. You could kill somebody quietly 
in the dark.” She looked at him as if asking for under¬ 
standing. “But you see I know the others couldn't have 
done it.” 

He touched her hand briefly. “This is a foolish con¬ 
versation at this time and in this place, but I agree with 
you. I could have done it” 

She got up with him from the seat. “However much I 
disapprove of your methods, I will always approve of 
your motives.” She might have been making a casual 
farewell to him in an English country lane. “Tyler ex¬ 
plained that you were going to the cinema. I will tell 
them to have his supper ready at seven.” 


204 



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN 

c 

NjhARLES and Penelope were both facing Inspector 
Vernier. Facing was the only word to describe it They 
were facing his threats, giving the impression that they 
refused to back away. 

He swung around as Julian came in. “What are you 
doing here?” 

“I came to collect my son to take him to a movie.” 
He smiled as he did when something incongruous makes 
drama faintly ridiculous. “He hasn’t had any excitement 
in his life. He wants to go to a cowboy film. They shoot 
the villain and have done with it.” And then he laughed 
because of the absurdity of it. “The villain of course is 
nearly always the sheriff.” 

Charles expended the air from his lungs as if he had 
held it there for too long. “Look,” he said, “tell this 
man that you know my aunt, and I couldn’t possibly 
have been mixed up in all this?” 

Julian looked at him and said, “Why not keep your 
aunt out of it?” 


205 



The inspector turned on him. “Has his aunt done 
something to help him?*’ 

“Yes, Inspector, something quite important. She has 
had a certain amount of faith in him.’’ 

“She is going to require a great deal more,’’ Vernier 
said. He added contemptuously, “If any human being 
can have faith in one who stabs another in the back.*’ 

“That’s a lie. Till you told me I didn’t even know 
that Topolski was dead.’’ 

Vernier’s sneer was a special brand of his own. “You 
didn’t know that your fingerprints were on his locker 
till I told you, did you?’’ 

Penelope looked across at Julian. Her eyes were bleak 
with despair. 

There was nothing he could do. Inspector Vernier had 
found the weak link and with the intuitive knowledge 
of a clever man, he knew it. 

Julian said, “There is this to be considered. Mrs. Til- 
ford met me in the street a while ago and she talked to 
me and what she said. Inspector, came from a back¬ 
ground that you could not have had access to. She told 
me that her nephew could not have committed this 
murder because he was constitutionally incapable of it.’’ 

Vernier was French enough to be interested in theo¬ 
ries. “Did she have in mind somebody who would be 
capable of committing it?’’ 

“Oh, yes.’’ 

“May I ask you to name names?’’ 

“Myself.’’ 

Penelope had been leaning back against the wall. She 
thrust herself away from it violently. 


206 



“Julian, that’s ridiculousl” 

He shook his head. “Mrs. Tilford was quite right. 
You see, Penelope, I've been close to people that you 
have to kill or be killed by yourself, and if you kill them 
by stabbing them in the back in the dark, it is really no 
diflEerent from killing them in a romantic duel." He 
smiled at her. “I'm sorry but there are times when all 
that matters is that you are the one who survives.'' 

Inspector Vernier pulled away the cigarette that had 
become glued to his lower lip. “Is this a lecture, Mr. 
Ashford, or a confession?" 

“It's certainly not a confession. I was explaining to 
you and to Miss WhitecliflEe that there are people who 
are capable of a certain line of action, and those who 
are not.” 

Vernier said contemptuously, “If you are trying to 
explain that you are the kind who cling together no 
matter what crimes are committed, I agree with you." 
He swung back to confront Charles Tilford. “Now you 
. . . do you deny that you opened Leon Topolski's 
locker?" 

“No, I don't." His lips twitched nervously. 

Julian moved across and stood close to Penelope. He 
caught her hand and held it firmly. 

“Why did you open it?" 

“Because there was something in it that belonged to 
me." 

“What?” 

“That is no business of yours.” Then he lied hope¬ 
lessly. “He owed me some money. He left it there for 
** 

me. 


207 



“Why did he owe you money?” 

Charles looked at the others as if for help. “I had 
loaned it to him.” But his tone would have convinced 
nobody. 

“It would be better,” the inspector said, “if you would 
realize that I am not an utter fool. Since you have been 
in Nice you have had no money to lend to anybody. You 
have been borrowing it wherever you could, and your 
aunt has been going around doing her best to satisfy 
your creditors.” 

Charles backed away from him. “That isn't true,” he 
said. 

“It is perfectly true. A number of weaklings come to 
this city. It is my business to see that they do not involve 
us in a scandal. I had decided that your aunt was cap¬ 
able of taking care of you. It seems that I was wrong. 
So when you opened the locker you expected to find 
money?” 

“I did.” 

“And the money was American currency, twenty- 
dollar bills, I take it?” 

Charles put a hand to his face. “Why do you ask me 
that?” 

“I am not asking you. Whoever employed you, also 
cheated you. As usual the money was counterfeit. Last 
night you were throwing it about in the Sporting Club. 
A colleague of mine in Monte Carlo telephoned me this 
morning. It is very strange, but the notes you were 
cashing were of the same series as those which Mr. 
Whitecliffe cashed at the Casino on the afternoon that 
he was murdered. You say that Topolski gave you the 

208 



money, but he also was murdered. Mr. Whitecliffe was 
not a man of wealth, but he, too, suddenly had money. 
Topolski was not rich either but had money, and then 
you had it. Perhaps you should consider yourself lucky to 
be alive." He turned to Julian and said, "You will note 
that I am dealing not with the character of your friends, 
but with facts." 

"I agree," Julian said. "You are dealing with the fact 
that some counterfeit money is circulating in Nice, but. 
Inspector, you still do not understand the people you 
are investigating." 

"And you know them better?" His tone was super¬ 
cilious. 

Julian nodded. "Very much better." 

"Very romantic. You realize as well as I do that all 
this money seems to originate here in this school. Miss 
Whitecliffe’s uncle, Topolski, and now ..." He swung 
around again to Charles. "Now tell me about the dia¬ 
mond ring you were endeavoring to present to Miss 
Land?" 

"I don't know what you're talking about," Charles 
said stubbornly. 

"You don't know." Inspector Vernier shook his head. 
"You don't know that you were identified as the man 
who drove the car in which you drove to the place of the 
robbery, you don't know that I had warned my friends 
in Monte Carlo to watch you?" He moved closer. "You 
were too much a fool to plan this yourself. Who was 
paying you? Who left the money for you in this school?" 

"I don't know," Charles persisted stubbornly. 


209 



“Who told you that John Keeble's car would be wait¬ 
ing for you?" 

"How do I know? Somebody told me that the car 
would be where I found it." 

"Did you know it belonged to Mr. Keeble?" 

"Of course. Everybody knows his car." 

"But you had no idea who told you to take it?" 

"No." He backed further away. 

"And no idea who it was you drove to the scene of 
the robbery?" 

"No, I’ve told you, no.” 

"And this complete stranger committed the robbery 
and gave you the jewels?” 

"Yes, I’ve told you that. That is what he did." 

"Just handed you the jewels and walked away? That 
was very trusting of him after he had performed the 
most dangerous part of the operation." 

"He turned them over to me and told me what to do 
with them. He was carrying out orders the same as I 
was." 

Vernier nodded. "But you decided not to be so docile 
as they thought you would be. Topolski was waiting for 
you at the appointed place, but you were not going to 
give the diamonds to Topolski." 

Charles said almost eagerly, "If I had not been going 
to give them to him why should I have gone there at 
all?" 

"That is simple. You had to have money and you 
knew it was waiting for you at the school. Even you 
would realize that it is not easy to go about selling dia- 

210 



monds immediately after a robbery. Where are they 
now?*' he rasped the words out sharply. 

Charles shook his head. **A111 know is that I did what 
I was told. I put them in Topolski's locker." 

"Why did Mr. Keeble drive you back from Monte 
Carlo in your car when he had his own there?" he asked 
sharply. 

“I don't know .. . yes, I do. I'd had one or two drinks 
too many." 

"1 see, and instead of taking you home and putting 
you to bed, he brought you back to the school. Was 
there nothing strange about that?" 

"I won't say anything, you'll use it against me." It 
was a weak defiance. He wet his dry lips. 

"I'll use a lot of things against you, my friend, in¬ 
cluding a charge of murder. If there are people behind 
this with more brains than you have, they have left you 
in a very difficult situation. Don’t tell me that in the 
circumstances you are trying to shield them." 

Charles pushed a strand of blond hair away from his 
eyes and said in desperation, "But I've told you. I don't 
know who they are. I only saw Topolski and this other 
man, this stranger.” 

"And you can't even describe him. You say it was 
dark where you picked him up, he kept his hat pulled 
over his eyes, his back was half turned to you. You can't 
even tell me whether he was tall or short. And he has 
melted into the air and Topolski is dead. I might as 
well tell you that somebody is going to be convicted of 
these crimes. If I can find nobody else it will be you. 
What do you say about that, Mr. Tilford?" 


211 



Charles took his handkerchief from his pocket and 
passed it across his forehead. His eyes turned to Penelope 
and Julian and then away again. “I don't know/' Charles 
said. “When we went back to the school, John opened 
the locker. The jewelry was not there. . . . When I saw 
it was gone I was frightened. I had been thinking that 
perhaps John would give them back to the old lady and 
ask her to forget the whole thing.'' 

“And you expected that I, too, would forget it.'' 

“I don't know, but with John you feel that you can 
leave things in his hands. He seems to know what to do,'' 
the young man muttered. 

The inspector made a brief signal to the uniformed 
constable who was waiting. “Take him away.'' And he 
added, “He is to have no visitors.'' 

Charles took an uncertain step toward Penelope. “I'm 
sorry," he said. “Penelope, will you tell John? There 
might be something he can do." 

The constable touched his arm and he said, “Oh yes, 
of course, you're waiting, aren't you . . . sorry." 

Inspector Vernier had picked up his black hat. “I am 
going now, mademoiselle," he said. “You realize, of 
course, that I will come back?" 


212 



CHAPTER NINETEEN 


m HEY were walking back from the movie. The cow¬ 
boy film had been all that they had expected of it. Vir¬ 
tue had triumphed and all the villains were dead or in 
gaol. The daughter of the U.K. ranch and her old and 
somewhat senile father were firmly in possession again, 
and the good cowboys had waved to her before they had 
disappeared into a cloud of dust. 

They had taken a roundabout way home and now 
they were strolling along the Promenade. 

“Tyler," Julian said, “life doesn’t end like those cow¬ 
boy films, you know." 

Tyler picked up a small stone and hurled it over the 
railings and into the sea. “I know," he said, “because 
they have another story with the same cowboys next 
week. I like them better than the serials on the radio 
because those never come to an end at all." 

“Well, in real life, things do come to an end eventu¬ 
ally, so I suppose life must be something between one 
and the other." 


213 



Tyler looked at him with curiosity. “Why are you 
about it, daddy?” 

“I was thinking about things I remember that you 
don't You don't remember your mother, do you?” 

“Yes, I do, I remember everything you told me about 
her.” 

“What would you think if we suddenly discovered 
that she was alive?” 

“I don't think I would like it, daddy. I think she was 
too good. I think you and I are better by ourselves.” He 
looked a little afraid. “We won't discover that she's 
alive, will we? I don't want to live with somebody who 
had been dead all this time.” 

Julian went on seriously. “Tyler, you hadn't met 
many grown-up women till you came here, except of 
course those who used to take care of you. Now since we 
have been here and you've met Miss WhitecliflFe and 
Mrs. de Wollfe and Mrs. Tilford, tell me what you think 
of them.” 

“Well, of course,” he began doubtfully, “Mrs. Tilford 
is very stern, but you don't mind that because she does 
good things for you and by the time it's bedtime she's 
got you clean and made you tidy your room and there's 
nothing left over that people can grumble about in the 
morning, not even your lessons.” 

“And Miss WhitecliflEe?” 

He said cautiously, “She is very nice. She talks about 
you. I think I love her, but . . ,” He kicked the gravel 
at his feet. 

“But what, Tyler?” 


214 



He was not happy. “Don't let's talk about it, daddy. 
Why would we talk about women?'' 

“Very well, but you haven't told me about Mrs. de 
Wollfe." 

He was relieved. “Oh, we don't have to worry about 
her. She doesn't care about us, does she?'' 

It was no use. If the time was coming when he would 
have to face the shock it would be better to wait till the 
time came. There was no bridge. 

Mrs. Tilford was waiting for them in the apartment. 

“There was no need to have come this evening,'' he 
said gently. 

She answered almost angrily. “Why not this evening? 
I had no other engagements.'' She put a hand with 
rough affection on Tyler's shoulder. “Come along, 
young man. You're late. It's past your bath time.'' 

Tyler looked at her as if he suspected that she might 
use the time to escape her responsibilities. “You aren't 
going to say that it's too late to read to me are you, 
Mrs. Tilford?'' 

“Not if you get a move on,'' she told him. 

He dashed for the bedroom. 

She turned to Julian. “Did you see Charles?'' 

He nodded. “Yes. He was with Inspector Vernier.” 

“It's hopeless, isn't it? They told me that he'd been 
charged with the jewel robbery.” 

“Not quite hopeless,” he said. 

He went to the telephone and called Penelope. He 
asked her to hurry because he was afraid he would 
change his mind; to get a taxi and come to the apart¬ 
ment. 


215 



He went to the bathroom where his son was plunging 
like a seal in the water. “Tyler, I want to talk to you.” 

He lifted his head indulgently. “Yes, daddy?” Inter¬ 
ruptions from a parent were routine. You put up with 
them. 

“Would you mind putting yourself to bed tonight? I 
know that Mrs. Tilford promised to read to you, but I 
want to talk to her. Do you mind?” 

He raised himself on his hands and knees and con¬ 
sidered his father. He saw that the request was serious. 
“Yes,” he said, “I'll read to myself. But she'll make up 
the time tomorrow, won't she?” 

“I promise. Eat your supper and put yourself into 
bed, won't you?” 

“Will you say good night to me?” 

“Yes, even if you're asleep.” 

Penelope was surprised to see Mrs. Tilford. The old 
lady was standing in the center of the room and she 
was as uncompromising as a rock. 

Julian stepped forward and took her hands. “I'm 
sorry to have to drag you out like this, Penelope. But I 
want you to help me.” 

“Help you?” Her eyes widened. “But Julian, you 
aren't in trouble.” Her voice broke sharply. 

“This afternoon Inspector Vernier said we were all 
building up a sort of common front against him. He 
was quite right,” Julian said quietly. 

He picked up Penelope's handbag. Before she could 
protest he had taken the detective agency's report from 
it. 

She jumped up from her chair and confronted him. 


216 



‘‘Julian, what are you going to do with that? It doesn’t 
belong to you. It belonged to my uncle.” 

‘‘I’m going to send it to Inspector Vernier. I should 
have handed it over in the first place. It might have 
prevented the other murder.” He went over to his desk 
and took out an envelope. ‘‘I wrote this letter to go with 
it this morning.” 

The envelope was stamped and addressed. He put in 
the little sheaf of papers he had taken from her bag and 
sealed the envelope. He went to the elevator and asked 
the boy to drop it in the mailbox. Then he came back. 

Mrs. Tilford looked from one to the other of them 
suspiciously. ‘‘What is all this about?” 

“Sit down, Mrs. Tilford, and I’ll tell you the whole 
story.” She found an upright chair and sat stiffly, with 
her hands clasped in her lap. 

In the silence, after he had finished, they could hear 
Tyler in his bedroom. He was singing an outlandish 
lullaby, something that he had learned somewhere in 
the tropics. It was not a melody, but a quiet monoto¬ 
nous chant. It became softer and softer as if he were sing¬ 
ing himself to sleep. 

‘‘So you see,” Julian said, ‘‘I have no alternative.” 

There were outraged tears in Penelope’s eyes. ‘‘Don’t 
you see what will happen now?” 

Mrs. Tilford said sharply, ‘‘He sees quite well, Pene¬ 
lope, and if you had an ounce of sense you would see 
that he has no alternative either.” 

Penelope was rebellious. ‘‘You’ve done all the harm 
you can. Now what are you going to do?” 

‘‘Talk to De Wollfe. What else can I do?” 


217 



Mrs. Tilford walked to the door of Tyler's room and 
opened the door. She closed it softly and came back. 

“He's asleep,'' she said. “I only hope he is sleeping as 
confidently tomorrow night.'' She picked up her sensible 
handbag and strode toward the door. “I think if you 
don't mind. I'll go for a short walk. I'll be back to 
stay with Tyler." 

They stood together looking down over the Prom¬ 
enade. He opened the full-length windows and they 
stepped out onto the small balcony. A breeze that was 
hardly more than a caress was coming in from the sea 
warmed by Africa on the other side. It was quiet be¬ 
tween the times of activity. The cocktail hour had 
finished and the evening sessions had not begun. They 
could hear the softly crisp sounds of the occasional 
horse carriages and see the still lighted curve of the bay 
that seemed to be waiting expectantly for something 
new, hushed after one experience and waiting for an¬ 
other. 

He took her arm and tucked it under his own as they 
leaned over the balustrade. “Soft," he said. “And gentle 
and quiet. I wish I could have stayed here, Penelope." 

She gasped in protest. “Why did you do it, Julian? 
There was no need. What you have done is violent. 
But all kinds of relationships can exist down here; it's 
what they call civilization; people learn to accept them. 
You and Tyler could have lived your lives, and Risa 
and De Wollfe could have lived theirs." She shivered as 
if the wind had blown cold. “Nobody on this Coast 
likes things to be forced into the open. They are terribly 


218 



cruel to people who do it. They don't want them. It 
can be dreadful when they let you know that you are 
not wanted, when you realize there is a conspiracy to 
get rid of you; the hotels and the casinos and the 
police." 

He pressed the hand under his arm. "Don't worry, 
Penelope. I don't stay where I'm not wanted." 

"No," she said. "But I wanted you to stay." 

The telephone began to ring in the living room. He 
went away to answer it and came back. 

"That was John," he said. "Raoul de Wollfe is with 
him. He has invited us to go around to his house." 

She turned slowly away as if she were reluctant to 
give up a dream. "Had you arranged this before you 
asked me to come here?" 

"Yes," he said. "I'm afraid that's what I did." He 
took her arm and guided her back into the room. "It's 
a farewell party, Penelope." He looked about the room 
as if he were impressing the details on his mind, and 
she knew that he would always remember her as she 
was standing here in this setting. 

"What will you do now, Julian? I mean when you go 
away?" 

"Do?" He seemed surprised at her question. "What 
I've always done. I'll go back to where I belong." 

"You're running away, aren't you?" 

"Running away . . . Penelope, in all my life . . . " 
He broke oflE and walked to her and took her hands. 
"Yes, I'm running away." 

Her face crumpled like a child's. She said, "What 
about Tyler? I like him. I'd like to take care of him." 


219 



He shook his head. “Penelope, you made that clear 
to me on the very first day we met. Tyler and I don’t 
want to make demands on anybody.*’ 

She pulled her hands out of his grasp. “You don’t 
understand. This wouldn’t be making demands.’’ 

“I’m afraid it would be, more than you realize.’’ He 
picked up the light fur cape she had been wearing and 
laid it on her shoulders. “Tomorrow you’ll understand 
what I mean.’* 


220 




John Kfeeble seemed to be remaining deliberately in 
the background. 

“I envy you this house, John,” Raoul said. “One can’t 
describe it without using words like distinction, unpre¬ 
tentious charm and that sort of thing. Risa always thinks 
of this when she is buying furniture. She asks herself 
how would such a piece look in John’s house.” 

“That’s very nice of her, but the taste isn’t mine, you 
know. It’s a headwaiter’s.” He carried drinks and handed 


them to Penelope and Julian. 

“Risa stayed here for a few weeks when I was away,” 
he explained to Julian. “She was having her own place 


221 



decorated. I was afraid that after the Chateau de WoUfe 
she’d have considered it a bit of a slum. 

Raoul laughed. “Too modest isn’t he, Penelope? Don't 
you agree that it’s delightful?” 

“Very,” she said and added, “This is the first time 
I’ve seen it.” 

He took that up at once. “My dear, how very back¬ 
ward of John. The prettiest girl and the most gracious 
house in Nice, and he has been keeping them apart.” 
He was the amused man of the world. 

“You said that we had got ourselves into a mess,” 
Julian said. “I take it that you don’t include yourself?” 

Raoul looked at him in polite surprise. “But why 
should 1? I take it that the purpose of this meeting is 
to try somehow to soften the blow of young Tilford’s 
arrest. I’ll certainly use what influence I have to help 
the boy, but I’ve certainly no intention of getting myself 
involved in this business.” 

“But aren’t you involved?” 

De Wollfe cleared his throat. What he proposed to 
say he intended to be emphatic. “I’ve not inquired as 
to your interest in this business, Ashford. But I must 
say it sounds odd that a complete stranger should en¬ 
deavor to interfere at all.” 

Julian said quietly, “At least they know that Charles 
Tilford is not a master mind who could plan a jewel 
robbery like the one the other night. They want to find 
the man in the background. Unfortunately for Charles, 
he can’t tell them.” 

“And you think you can?” 

Julian nodded. “Yes, I think I can.” 


222 



Penelope and John moved closer. They knew that the 
clash between the two men went below the superficial 
words they were speaking. 

Raoul de Wollfe leaned forward in his chair. “That 
is interesting. Why not tell us how you think you could 
help the police?” 

“I think I know the man.” 

“Are we permitted to know who he is?” 

“I think—^yourself.” 

Penelope gasped. There was a curious immobility 
about Julian Ashford that she had noted before. When 
he said something that really mattered he said it with¬ 
out stress and without fear of the consequences. 

Raoul de Wollfe lifted a hand and caressed his 
mustache. He took his time in replying. “You know, 
Ashford,” he said, “I can’t really make up my mind 
whether to be flattered or offended. But what really 
interests me is how you arrived at the conclusion. You 
see I can’t help believing that you really mean what 
you say.” 

Penelope was thinking, people don’t behave like this. 
But they were behaving in this way, Julian with quiet 
concentration, and Raoul listening with his expression 
of puzzled interest. 

“I suppose,” Julian said, “it arises from the places I 
have lived. If you live in the tropics you develop a 
kind of second sense about people you meet out there.” 
He turned to John and Penelope as if he were explain¬ 
ing to them. “People can pretend that they are some¬ 
thing that they are not, and because nobody contradicts 
them, they can get away with it. You know that it’s not 


223 



the truth but that it's all part of a make-believe.” He 
nodded to Raoul de Wollfe. “If he came out there he 
would be a great success. Everything he did would be 
so right, almost too right.” 

Raoul laughed genuinely. “This is fascinating. Do go 
on talking about me, Ashford. You are better than a 
fortuneteller.” 

“You told me about your fishing trips up and down 
Europe, and then I saw Topolski. He looked so unlike 
the sort of man you would employ if you were trying to 
impress people, that 1 couldn't believe it. If you had 
sent him to arrange your fishing trips they would not 
have accepted you. If you really had wanted somebody 
for that job you would have employed somebody like 
John here.” 

John said, “It never would have occurred to me, but 
it's quite true of course. At least I do know what a trout 
is shaped like. I'll bet Leon never in his life saw one 
outside a fishmarket.” He paused and shivered, and 
Julian knew that he was remembering the lonely place 
where he had left the body. 

For the first time Raoul showed signs of unease. He 
pressed his mustache tightly between his lips. “Academi¬ 
cally, this is interesting. I think you were accusing me 
of a crime. Now it seems that I've been stupid enough 
to choose the wrong person to arrange my fishing trips.” 

“No,” Julian said, “that's something you would never 
do, because you've trained yourself never to do the 
wrong thing with the right people.” 

“I see, but how does this implicate me in a series of 
unpleasant crimes in Nice?” 


224 



“I don't like telling you this," Julian looked from one 
to the other of them, "but when I was a stranger here, 
I was involved in something that seemed dangerous for 
me and my son. When you are in danger, the first thing 
to do is to ask what weapons you have. I had only one. 
The company I work for is very influential and, for a 
reason I can't explain, they trust me." He hesitated 
apologetically. "I'm afraid, De Wollfe, they found out 
that you haven't very much background." 

De Wollfe colored angrily. "How dare you inquire 
into my private affairs?" 

"I'm sorry," Julian said. "But you know there seemed 
to be an idea of accusing me of murder. There are 
times when an international company like mine can 
get information more quickly than the police, because 
there is more telephoning and less formality. What they 
found was that you had money to spend, but there was 
no information as to where it came from." 

"And from all this background you deduced that I 
had committed two murders, a jewel robbery and was 
passing counterfeit money?" Raoul got up from his 
chair and strolled over to help himself to a drink. "All 
this in a couple of days; Inspector Vernier is going to 
blush with shame when you tell him." 

"I'm not going to tell him," Julian said. "I think you 
should." 

Raoul laughed. "I came here tonight with the idea of 
offering my help. You seem to be getting along nicely 
without it. Before I go, it would be interesting to hear 
your evidence, let's say one or two small facts." 

Julian explained quietly. "First there was your curi- 

225 



ous interest in Penelope's school. You said you were in¬ 
terested in it because you considered the spreading of 
languages to be a great crusade. That is possibly true 
and it might have been a way to justify your actions 
to your conscience." 

"There is a great deal that I hope to justify to my 
conscience, but don't let me interrupt you," Raoul said 
coldly. 

"You were paying Leon Topolski's fees at the school 
out of charity, you said, and for the same reason you 
gave him these odd jobs to act as your casual secretary 
and courier. But from what I have seen of you I would 
say that if you were supporting a charity it would not 
be an obscure one. You would be more likely to be on 
a committee headed by a duchess." 

"Since you mention it," De Wollfe said, "I am on 
several. I hadn't realized that it might condemn me." 

Julian went on. "No, it's Topolski who condemns 
you. While the robbery was being committed he was 
waiting at the school to collect the spoils. Topolski 
made the contact with Charles Tilford and arranged for 
him to drive the car. Topolski had his bag ready and 
was going to make one of those casual journeys you were 
telling me about." 

Raoul de Wollfe nodded in agreement. "I think you 
are right. I should say he had got it into his head that 
I could no longer be bothered with him, so he decided 
to make a killing and get away. It was a shock to me 
when I heard he was dead. My first thought was that 
he had committed suicide. Remember I told you myself 
I thought he was the type." 


226 



Julian shrugged that aside. “But unless you told him, 
he couldn't have known that the old lady was going to 
a party at your house. You had not invited her till four 
o’clock on the day she was robbed. The holdup had 
been organized much earlier than that.’’ 

Raoul de Wollfe considered. “It didn’t occur to you, 
of course, that her chauflEeur could have been a party to 
the holdup? It would be fairly simple for him to tele¬ 
phone where he was going to drive her, and the time.’* 

“If the chauffeur was a member of the gang, he must 
be a glutton for punishment. He’s still in a hospital, 
poor chap,’’ said Julian. 

“Most interesting, that leaves only myself and any¬ 
body else who cared to take the trouble to keep track 
of her whereabouts.” 

“Yes, somebody who knew Topolski, knew also every 
turn in the road to your house, and had access to John’s 
garage, and knew she had been invited to your house.” 

“Had I access to John’s garage?” 

“Your wife lived here. Did she give you the keys back, 
John?” 

“Heaven knows,” and he added, “I don’t want Risa 
brought into this.” 

“Unfortunately, we have all been brought into it.” 

Raoul de Wollfe gave an exaggerated sigh. “Thank 
heaven for thatl I thought I was the only suspect.” 

“We are all defending ourselves,” Julian said quietly. 
“In the best way that we can.” 

“And I,” De Wollfe said flatly, “do not even admit 
that I need defend myself.” 

Penelope Whitecliffe watched and listened with a 

227 



feeling of dread. Julian Ashford was waiting, turning his 
glass in his brown hands. She knew that he had com¬ 
mitted himself to something he intended to finish. 

John said explosively, “This is all fantasticl” 

De Wollfe shook his head. “No, not yet, John, but it 
will be. I think our friend is going to accuse me of two 
murders. The only trouble is that I can't for the life 
of me think of a reason why I should have murdered 
Penelope's uncle." 

As if he found the glass too heavy in his hands, Julian 
put it aside. “What caused all the trouble for the mur¬ 
derer," he said, “was that Mr. Whitecliffe was winning 
when he should have lost. But to explain it you have to 
go back to the school, anil of course to Topolski, to 
the point when he was helping Mr. Whitecliffe count 
the money and found the counterfeit dollars and told 
him the only place where he could safely cash them was 
at the Casino. That was quite untrue. If my guess is 
right, the Casino would have been the most dangerous 
place in Nice. He would have been arrested as he left 
the building. But you see he was not intended to leave 
the building. He was expected to take his frightening 
money to the Casino to stake it at roulette and lose. 
Then it would have been obvious to everybody that 
he had had the last wild fling and committed suicide. 
But he did not lose, and a man who is winning a for¬ 
tune does not suddenly decide to kill himself." 

“You've forgotten to supply me with a motive," Raoul 
said. 

“I can supply you with a very good one," Julian said. 

“Splendid, you seem to have thought of everything." 


228 



“Mr. WhiteclifiEe,” Julian said, “knew that Risa was 
not your wife.*' 

Raoul de Wollfe turned and regarded Julian as if he 
were trying to interpret the mind of a lunatic. Where 
there had been tension in his face before, there was now 
relief, as if a dangerous pursuer had taken the wrong 
road. 

“That would certainly be a motive for murder," he 
said. “It would be most unfortunate if somebody came 
along with the knowledge that I was not married to 
my wife." Raoul de Wollfe smiled at John and Penelope, 
and then he must have realized that he alone was not 
treating the accusation seriously. They were watching 
him, waiting to hear what he would say next. If the 
accusation was a joke they were not seeing it. 

“I'm sorry to disappoint you," he went on. “There is 
nothing irregular about my marriage. It took place on 
a fine spring morning at Paddington Registry office in 
London. We went for our honeymoon to a small village 
in Devonshire: a little inn; charming simple people." 

Julian Ashford hated himself. He got up from his 
chair and walked away. “You are probably right," he 
said. “I believe you may have done all you say you did. 
But you see your wife was already married to someone 
else." 

Raoul de Wollfe jumped to his feet and followed 
Julian to where he was standing by the window. His 
face was white. “This is an awful, monstrous thing to 
say about any woman," he said. “Why are you saying it? 
Are you a murderer trying to fix the blame on some- 


229 



body else? Are you a blackmailer trying to gouge money 
out of people? What is the idea of all this?” 

Julian turned to face him. He knew that he could 
never like Raoul de Wollfe, but at least he could pity 
him. “I came here by accident,” he said. ”My life with 
Risa came to an end years ago. She thought I was dead. 
I imagine she was as willing to forget the past as I was. 
Unfortunately, it won't be forgotten. Risa and I were 
married, we lived together and we had a son and, as I 
said, she believed that I was dead. She had every right 
to believe it. I think the first time she realized that I 
was alive was when she walked into the room where 
Inspector Vernier was making his inquiries and saw me 
alive.” 

Raoul de Wollfe said, ”What utter nonsense 1 I noticed 
myself you met as complete strangers. Do you think I'm 
an utter fool where my wife is concerned? I love her 
enough to be jealous of her. When she speaks to a man 
I watch her. I know I should be man of the world 
enough not to do that, but I do. John introduced you 
to each other and you met as strangers.” He swung 
around. “That is true, isn't it, John?” 

John Keeble shook his head. “I'm sorry, Raoul. I felt 
that what had happened in the past had nothing to do 
with me.” 

Raoul de Wollfe backed away as if John had betrayed 
a trust. “Are you trying to suggest that you knew about 
this?” he asked hoarsely. 

“It was none of my business.” John turned unhappily 
away. 

230 



Raoul swung around to Penelope. “And you too? Did 
you know?” 

She nodded without looking at him. “My uncle 
thought you were trying to force us to sell out to you. 
In some ways he was cleverer than you’d think. He said 
that you would take over and get rid of us both, and 
he loved this place and he knew what the school meant 
to me. Perhaps he knew more of what was going on than 
I did. I think perhaps Leon Topolski might have hinted 
it to him on one of those walks they used to take to¬ 
gether. He used to say that he was sure there was some¬ 
thing in your past, and that if we knew what it was we 
could make you leave us alone.’’ She gave a laugh that 
was half a sob. “It was the sort of way a schoolboy would 
think. He did find something.’’ She paused sharply. 

Raoul had moved away from them. He was gathering 
up the strings of his vanity. “So everyone in this room 
has been sharing this secret joke. That means, of course, 
that everybody in Nice is sharing it.’’ 

“It is not a joke,’’ Julian said. “And we three are the 
only ones who know it. The police will know it in the 
morning.’’ 

“The police?’’ he asked sharply. 

Julian nodded. “I’ve written to them. I don’t in the 
least mind Charles Tilford going to gaol for what he 
did in the robbery, but, incredible fool that he is, he’s 
not a murderer.’’ 

Raoul walked to the telephone. He pulled himself 
together as if he were going to meet a foe. “There is 
only one person who can put an end to this nonsense,’’ 


231 



he said. “That is Risa herself. I'll ask her to come here, 
and then heaven help you all.” 

Penelope realized then that it was not Raoul, the vain 
exhibitionist, who mattered, but Risa whom he loved 
and leaned upon. 

He looked smaller when he came from the telephone. 
The perfect clothes looked oddly as if they had been 
made for somebody else. The vanity had gone out of 
his face and it sagged. 

“Risa is dining with friends at the Ruhl Hotel,” he 
said. “She says she has not the slightest desire to come 
around here and take part in a discussion of her marital 
past. She says that if 1 have been foolish enough to get 
myself involved in a series of squalid little crimes, that 
is entirely my own affair.” He drew himself up as if 
under the power of his own words. “And she is quite 
right. Risa is quite right.” 

He did not say good night to them, and the three of 
them stood without speaking as he walked out of the 
room. 


232 



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 


U J ISA was waiting for him. As he came through the 
door he saw her standing before the mirror, touching 
her hair with her fingers in a self-caress. 

She said, “Oh, there you are, Julian. I hoped you 
wouldn't be long.” 

“Risa, what are you doing here?” 

Still caressing the hair that curved above her ear, she 
said, “I've come home, Julian. I sent the nurse away.” 

“The nurse?” 


She turned her eyes from the mirror to look at him 
casually. “Yes, of course, the little old lady you had 
hired to take care of Tyler.” 


“Mrs. Tilford?” 


“If you say so. We've had so many of them, I never 
can remember their names. It seemed silly to keep her 
up so late. They get upset when you keep them out of 
their little beds. I explained to her, of course, that I was 
your wife.” 

“Risa ...” There was something frightening about 
her. Her eyebrows were raised in vague surprise. 


233 



“But Julian, let's face it. You told Raoul we were 
married. Why not let's be married? We have our son 
and nobody is going to dispute it, are they? Surely this 
is one marriage that nobody can break up. It's so gen¬ 
uine, and we don't even have to live in Burma." 

“Did you tell Tyler?" 

“It's always Tyler isn't it, Julian? No, I didn't tell 
him. I thought it would be better if we told him to¬ 
gether in the morning. Don't you agree, Julian?" 

“What about Raoul?" 

She laughed. “That's a funny question from you, 
Julian. Do you suppose that Raoul's vanity will be able 
to bear me in the future? I was part of his life, like his 
fashionable villa and his clothes and his car." She 
laughed contemptuously. 

But she had chosen him. She had loved the life he 
could give her, but as always Risa had known to the 
penny the value of the goods she had bought. After all 
the years it was interesting to see the same mind react¬ 
ing in the same way. 

“We have nothing to offer you Risa," he said flatly. 
“You decided that long ago." 

“I would rather stay with my husband and son in 
Nice than be abandoned in Nice," she said. 

He saw that she had ordered up from the hotel room 
service small caviar sandwiches, and there was a bottle 
of champagne in a bucket by the table. It was so like 
Risa. He opened the champagne because no matter what 
happened next it was expected of him. 

She looked at him as she raised her glass. “Is this hail 
and farewell?" 


234 



“I think so, Risa.” 

“Why did you tell Raoul?” 

“Because he was going to find out from another 
source.” 

“The scene must have been interesting. I almost wish 
I had been there.” 

“I rather gathered that you preferred to stay with 
your friends. You were dining here I understand.” 

She nodded. “IVe been visiting this hotel quite a lot 
since you arrived, Julian. Do you suppose it’s from an 
instinctive desire to be near you?” 

“Are your friends staying in the hotel.” 

“Yes, oddly enough, they are on the floor below this 
** 

one. 

He nodded thoughtfully. “So that’s how you managed 
to get to my suite the other evening? You walked up 
one flight of stairs.” 

Her eyebrows rose in artificial surprise. “Julian, dear, 
whatever are you talking about?” 

“The night you searched my room. You’ve made your¬ 
self over quite a lot since we were together, Risa, but 
for some reason you’ve never changed your perfume. 
When I came back to my bedroom there was something 
oddly familiar. Do you know it was only when I came 
in here tonight that I realized what it was. What were 
you looking for, Risa?” 

She laughed. “Haven’t you ever heard of a wife 
going through her husband’s pockets, darling? It’s being 
done all the time. I wondered if there was another 
woman in your life.” 


235 



*1 don’t think that interested you, not then. You 
were looking for something more important.” 

“Was I?” 

He nodded. “Yes, but you were too late. The papers 
you were looking for I'd given to Penelope WhitediflEe.” 

“Penelope Whitediffe.” Her voice was quite soft, 
hardly above her breath. “Why didn’t you tell me this 
before, Julian?” 

“I had a very good reason. I thought it was safer not 
to tell you.” 

“Why did you give them to her?” 

“They belonged to her unde. She was here when I 
found them.” 

“Here with you?” 

“Why not? We were packing her uncle’s suitcases.” 

“I suppose,” she said, “it was a kind of fate that you 
and she should come together. The other night when I 
saw you take her away to drive her home in John’s car, 
I could have killed her.” 

With an act of finality he put the half-emptied wine 
glass back on the table. “Risa, that is the reason I didn’t 
tell you that Penelope had the papers you were looking 
for. You not only could have killed her, but I know you 
would have.” 

She straightened and leaned back rigidly in her chair. 
Her eyes were very dark and it seemed as if she were 
absorbing the image of his face into her memory. She 
spoke as if explaining something to him. “Julian, I 
suppose you think I must have felt terrible remorse 
about what 1 did. But 1 didn’t then, and 1 don’t now. 
It was unfortunate, that’s all.” 


236 



Unfortunate. The casual word was staggering. He 
remembered it all, every detail. He saw, again, the tiny 
Malay servant with her shapeless smock buttoned tightly 
at the neck, her delicate face, and her black hair in a 
bun at the back. She was the one who had taken care 
of Tyler, had worshiped him. She was the one he had 
found in the kitchen with a knife in her back. He re¬ 
membered how, when he shouted for her, Risa had come 
running, and her scream of horror. Risa had told him 
that there had been quarrels in the kitchen. Some na¬ 
tive lover had been making trouble while he had been 
away. 

Then he had seen the stain of blood on Risa’s lovely 
white evening gown. 

She had not realized that it was there till she saw 
him looking at it and saw the realization coming into 
his eyes that she had been lying to him. He remem¬ 
bered how in the first uncontrolled minutes of fear she 
had justified herself; that the woman had been trying 
to alienate the aflEections of her son, and she had even 
dared to try to pretend that she was the real mistress of 
the house. But he knew now that the real truth had 
been that Risa had been having an a£Eair while he was 
away. It was difficult now to remember the man’s name— 
somebody who was traveling through. The servant had 
threatened to tell the master and Risa had killed her . . . 

It had all come out that night in a tumult of emotion. 
It was vivid with them in the room now in Nice. He 
remembered how he had burned her evening gown after 
the servants had gone back to the compound. He re¬ 
membered seeing her ofiE on the train to Rangoon on 


237 



a hot steaming day when they both were keeping up 
appearances. Her friends thought they were seeing her 
off on a holiday. She was going forever. 

He looked down at her now. Her eyes had a still 
quality as if they were lenses in a camera. 

“Julian/* she said, “that stupid affair while you were 
away never meant anything to me. But you mattered, 
and if she had told you it would have ruined every¬ 
thing ... a native servant.” 

She had forgotten the knife in the girFs back and the 
blood on her white evening gown. 

“Risa, I accused Raoul de Wollfe tonight of killing 
Penelope*s uncle. But that was not true was it?** 

She made a slight gesture of appeal. “Does it matter, 
Julian? All this will be over soon. The police may think 
he did, but they can*t prove anything, can they?** 

The fact that they might not be able to prove any¬ 
thing was what mattered to her. She had no sense of 
guilt. 

“If I had gone to the police a long time ago, Risa, 
and told them what had really happened, as I should 
have done, nothing here in Nice would have happened 
either.** But it was useless to explain to her. Her should¬ 
ers were half raised in a shrug when he stopped 
speaking. 

“A native servant. Julian, don*t you realize I loved 
you too much to lose you because of kitchen gossip? 
I*ve told you that wretched affair had had nothing to 
do with us. He was sailing in two days and I*d never 
have seen him again.’* 

“The point is, Risa,** he said, “it will always be like 


238 



that. Mr. WhitecliflEe was no more important in your 
life than the native servant.” 

As if she were interested in this merely as a discus¬ 
sion, she asked, “Why are you so sure I killed him?” 

“Because it's the first thing that would occur to you,” 
he said. “Everybody seems to think that Raoul de 
Wollfe is the important person in your household. I 
don't believe it.” 

She smiled as if he had paid her a compliment. “How 
clever of you Julian.” She got up from her chair. “I can 
do anything with Raoul, but I must have those papers 
back from Penelope Whitecliffe. I don't really want to 
interfere in your life, Julian, but I can't bear the idea 
of anybody's interfering in mine. If you let them do it, 
it will be your responsibility, you know that, don't you?” 

“Yes, it will be my responsibility this time, Risa.” 

“You'll get them back from her?” 

“It's too late, Risa.” 

She stiffened again. “Aren't you frightened? You've 
seen how I can come in and out of this apartment when 
I want to.” 

“You've stolen one of the keys, haven't you?” 

She laughed. “You gave it to me, darling. At least I 
picked it up from the table. It's the one to your bed¬ 
room door, the door that leads off the corridor, the one 
you don't use. Julian, dear, in Nice lots of women have 
keys. Clerks in hotels don't question people like Mrs. 
Raoul de Wollfe, surely you know that? Silly Julian, 
don't you realize that I am one of the five important 
hostesses, and you are a passing stranger who has got 
into a mess with the police?” 


239 



“I realized that, Risa,” he said. “That*s why I sent the 
papers you want to the police.” 

It was a dreadful moment for both of them because 
it was so final. 

“Why did you do that?” she asked hoarsely, at last. 

“Because,” he said, “if there was another murder, I 
wanted them to know where to look. I wrote a letter 
telling them what happened in Burma.” 

“Do you think they'll believe you?” 

He said, “I don’t care whether they believe me or 
not.” 

“And did you tell them that I had committed the 
murders here?” 

He spoke gently as if he wanted to save her pain. His 
face was white and tired. “You’ll get out of this, Risa. 
You always will get out of everything. You’ve got men 
involved—Raoul, Charles Tilford, John Keeble and of 
course, myself—and also you are a beautiful woman; so 
what does it matter what I told the police?” 

She had finished her own drink, now she walked 
across and picked up the one he had set down. She let 
it touch her lips and looked at him over the glass as 
actresses do in a dramatic scene. “Tell me what you 
really think happened, Julian?” 

“Yes,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I think happened.” 
He lighted a cigarette without knowing that he did it 
“Mr. Whitecliffe knew before I arrived that you had 
committed bigamy.” 

“The horrid little man I He telephoned me and threat¬ 
ened that unless we stopped trying to get the school 
away from his precious niece, he would go to Raoul with 


240 



what he knew. The efiErontery of it.” She referred to him 
in the same contemptuous way she had spoken of the 
dead servant in Burma. actually had to pretend that 
I was frightened of him and said that I would arrange 
a meeting as soon as possible. When Leon let me know 
that he had advised the foolish man that the only place 
to cash the bad money was at the Casino, I telephoned 
the Whitecliffe man and said I would meet him there 
in the cocktail bar.” 

“But weren't you afraid your friends would recognize 
you?” 

“I wasn't afraid, but I didn’t want to be seen talking 
to that drab little man. 1 brought a suitcase to the ladies' 
cloak room and put on a last year's tweed suit and 
changed my hair and make-up and put on a frightful 
hat. I didn't even recognize myself.” She laughed. 

“He was so nervous that he could scarcely keep his 
voice steady. I let him order us a drink and promised 
that there was no need for him to worry about the 
school. I knew that he would have something more 
serious to worry about when they arrested him for 
passing counterfeit money. He was quite grateful and 
began fumbling in his pockets for the papers, and then 
he remembered that he had left them in a suite in the 
hotel where he was taking care of a small boy. He told 
me not to worry because he had hidden them most 
carefully.” She laughed again. “Most carefully ... he 
had probably hidden them under the mattressl” 

She made a gesture of dismissal. “I got the number of 
the suite from him and went back to the ladies' room 
and made myself respectable. I should have gone directly 

241 



to the hotel. But I thought I could come back and see 
what he would do at the table. I never dreamed, I must 
say, that he'd win all that money before he—committed 
suicide. And then we were all kept in that tiresome place 
for the whole afternoon.” She took a breath. “And then, 
of course, I had to meet you.” 

“History repeating itself,” he said. 

Without realizing it she agreed. “Yes, like that. . . . 
like seeing a ghost.” 

“The police will know why you killed Leon Topol- 
ski, Risa. You won't like the way they do it. It will be 
humiliating.” 

“How could they possibly 1” She raised her head as 
if to defend herself against something that really mat¬ 
tered to her. 

“Jealousy, Risa. You would hate to stand up in a 
court here in Nice and listen to the prosecutor explain 
how you tried to implicate John Keeble because Pene¬ 
lope had taken him away from you.” 

Her face tightened and her full lips shrank so that 
little vertical lines appeared. “Jealous of that little 
schoolmarm? Please don't be silly, Julianl” 

“I'm sorry but that's how it will appear. Try to think 
of it yourself, Risa. The knife that killed Topolski was 
taken from the mantelpiece in John's drawing room. 
You lived there and still have the keys. I told the police 
that it needn't have been John's knife because there 
was an identical one in a shop along the tram lines. 
They inquired and found that it had disappeared. I 
didn't tell them that I had stolen it.” 


242 



She looked at him somberly. ‘‘Why did you do that, 
Julian?"' 

“Because it was a replica of the knife that had killed 
Tyler's nurse in Burma. You must remember it, Risa, it 
was standing like a trophy on the mantelpiece in John's 
sitting room. Last time you had seen one like it, it was 
covered with blood." 

“Of course I remember it," she said. “It reminded me 
that John must have seen me when he was out there." 

“He didn't tell you?" 

“No, but you guess these things and I remembered 
him, the shy boy on his bicycle who used to ride past 
the bungalow and rush away when he saw that I'd 
noticed him. We never mentioned it, either of us. I 
knew that he knew who I was, Julian. I was grateful 
to him." 

“And felt that he belonged to you because he had 
been loyal?" 

“Why not? There is a certain warmth in sharing a 
secret, even if it's a guilty one." 

“And then he went to help Penelope at the . school. 
And then when he found Topolski's body where you'd 
left it, he went away and brought his car and took the 
body away up into the mountains." 

She backed away from him. “Obviously, because he 
realized that to leave it there would make him one of 
the suspects." 

He shook his head again. “He didn't do it for himself, 
Risa. He did it for Penelope. John Keeble wouldn't have 
left that knife in Topolski's back if he'd killed Topol- 
ski. Too many people had seen it in his house. I took 


243 



it out and brought it back to John’s house.” He looked 
at her and realized that she was the same person he 
had known from the beginning: Risa against the world. 
“I know that you were in John’s house, Risa, just before 
I arrived there the other night, because of that linger¬ 
ing scent you have always used. I knew it the minute 
I came into the room, when I came to put the knife 
back where it belonged.” 

He turned away and said, don’t know whether 
you realize it, but all your life you have depended on a 
male, Risa; but this time none of us can help you. You 
didn’t even realize that a little man like Mr. White- 
cliffe would be likely to tell his secrets to another man 
and that he and Leon Topolski were in their lonely 
way good friends. But you discovered that Leon Topol¬ 
ski was more dangerous than Mr. Whitecliffe. You had 
been using him, treating him as something beneath con¬ 
tempt, and then expansive little Mr. Whitecliffe on one 
of their walks confided in him. It’s quite possible that 
they may have decided that you and Raoul were not 
what you seemed. They may even have decided that 
Raoul was the shell we know he is.” 

Risa took up her coat. It draped on her shoulders as 
he held it for her. She accepted it as a tribute, as a 
guarantee that she was a success. 

As he stood behind her, she turned her head over her 
shoulder and the fur made a soft line for her cheek. “At 
least I have one male that I can depend on, Julian. 
Would you mind very much if I saw him?” 

Without waiting for him to reply, she walked to 
Tyler’s door. He followed her and stood at her shoulder. 


244 



Tyler was sleeping, with his head pillowed in one 
arm, the other arm flung out helplessly as if he had not 
known what to do with it. 

They stood looking down without speakings and then 
with a gesture she tightened her coat about her should¬ 
ers and turned away. “They say there is such a thing 
as mother love,” she said. “I*m sure that if anything 
could inspire it, your son could, Julian.” She gave a dry 
cough. “I’m sorry, but it just is not there.” 

She had gone, and before he could open the door for 
her, it had closed in his face. 


245 



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO 


m HE sun was bright on the water, glittering and 
dancing. Away at the end of the Promenade the fishing 
boats were coming in, and as always everywhere, there 
was a little gathering waiting to see what they had 
brought. All returning fishermen everywhere have an 
audience because the return of the fishermen is the old¬ 


est drama in the world. Nothing is so beautiful as his 
harvest from the sea, or so primitive; and nothing so 
lovely as his nets as he spreads them out in the sunlight 
to dry and to be mended. 

Julian could see the bright blond hair of his son as 
he darted from one boat to the other, looking at their 


cargoes. 

He knew that after today there would be nothing to 
prevent him from leaving and for the first time he 
wanted to stay. He was seeing it all as Penelope saw it 
and knew it, the colored rocks and the bright sea, and 
high behind them the mountains and the pines with 
little patches of snow that hid in their shadows. Every- 


246 



thing was there, the toilers and the idlers, the light and 
shade . . . 

He had finished dressing when Tyler burst into the 
room. “Daddy, daddy. Do you know what the fishermen 
brought in ... a body!” 

“Hundreds of bodies, I hope,” he said. “Fishes’ 
bodies.” 

“No, daddy. A woman’s body. The policemen came 
and took it away.” 

He knew then. He put his arm around Tyler's should¬ 
er, tightly, till the little boy squirmed away with in¬ 
stinctive embarrassment. 

“What's the matter, daddy?” 

“Nothing, Tyler. What would you like to plan for 
today?” 

“I don't know yet,” he said. “Mrs. Tilford thinks that 
she and I might go sailing. You needn’t come if you 
don't want to. She says she needs a man to help her 
manage the sail, but she thinks I can do it. I’m going 
to meet her downstairs.” 

“Fine,” he said. “When she said a man I know she 
meant you. I know these little sailboats, one man is 
quite enough. Run along now and don't keep her wait¬ 
ing, and for goodness’ sake take care of her.” 

“Of course I will,” he said. “These women are so 
helpless, aren’t they, daddy?” 

“Aren’t they,” he said. “That is a good thing they’d 
like you to remember.” 

Tyler had darted out of the room before he had 
finished speaking. 


247 



Inspector Vernier put his black hat on the table and 
lighted a cigarette. 

“An unfortunate accident happened last night,” he 
said. “The fishermen in the bay found Mr. Raoul de 
Wollfe's speedboat drifting and unoccupied. They took 
it in tow, and at dawn they made a search and, knowing 
the drift of the currents, they found the body of his 
wife.” His cigarette as usual drooled from the comer of 
his mouth. “It is a great tragedy.” 

Julian said nothing because there was nothing he 
could say. 

“The husband is a broken man, it appears to us now 
that without his wife he is a broken man, a shell. He 
talks at random. I have recommended to him that he 
should leave Nice.” He brushed the falling ash h:om 
his coat. “As usual in a case, when one thing breaks, all 
breaks. This morning a special messenger delivered her 
jewels to the lady who was robbed. There was no card 
enclosed but we know that the last call the lady made 
before she died was on Mr. Keeble. He is a great gentle¬ 
man, that young man. We would be proud to think he 
was staying with us.” 

“Your case is closed then,” Julian asked. 

The French police official looked at him under his 
heavy eyelids. “Unsolved murder cases are never closed, 
monsieur. They remain on our files.” He cleared his 
throat rather loudly. “However, we have been lucky 
enough to find the source of the counterfeit money and 
have confiscated the entire supply. There will be no 
more bad dollars circulating in Nice.” 

“What about young Charles Tilford?” 


248 



The inspector shrugged as if it were quite unimpor¬ 
tant. “He will be charged, of course. We will keep him 
one month, two months, three, according to our pleasure, 
and then we will discharge him for lack of evidence. 
Naturally we will tell him to keep away from Nice.” 

He got up and picked up his dilapidated black hat. 
He smiled and all at once looked completely diflEerent. 
“Mr. Ashford, I would be honored if you would join me 
in an aperitif,” he said. 

It was a painful thing to find Raoul de Wollfe wait¬ 
ing for him when he came back to the hotel. He was 
waiting in the lobby as if he were not quite sure that 
he would be welcome. His clothes gave the impression 
that he had lost weight. Julian took him up to his suite 
and gave him a drink which he accepted not as a guest 
but gratefully. 

“You've heard what happened to Risa?” he asked 
finally. 

Julian nodded. “Yes, I heard. I'm sorry.” 

He toyed with his drink, sitting forward on the edge 
of his chair. “I don't know what will happen to me now, 
because without Risa I'm nothing. I've wanted to tell 
you that, ever since you've been here, I'd known about 
you. I would never have dared tell Risa that in my 
jealousy I'd inquired about her past, but I did. So I 
knew that she had lied to me, but that didn't matter. I 
knew that without her nothing mattered. She wanted 
a kind of life and she decided to make me a part of it. 
She showed me how to wear my clothes and speak and 
even how to be rude to people I would have liked. 

“She showed me that if you are hard enough, there's 

249 



nothing you can’t do. She brought me down here and 
on the money she had we established ourselves, but we 
had to live. Risa knew how; we built up this business 
of diamond robbery and counterfeit money. We became 
so fashionable that nobody suspected us.” He took an¬ 
other grateful sip of his drink. “That is, nobody but 
John Keeble. I don’t know why I knew that, but I did. 
He was di£Ferent from both of us. He looked like the 
usual young men one meets here, but I knew that it 
wasn’t true. He was hard, and Risa fell in love with 
him.” He finished his drink at a gulp. “Risa had de¬ 
cided that the school was what we wanted, and she 
was right. We could have used it for all our operations— 
but then John went over to Penelope.” 

Raoul de Wollfe got up and held out a hand. “I 
wanted to explain,” he said simply. “Perhaps you under¬ 
stand me, perhaps you know why I loved her.” 

Julian shook hands with him as he left. “I under¬ 
stand,” he said. 

They were standing in a little group waiting for 
the train. It came in majestically. John Keeble went off 
to supervise the porter who had their baggage, two 
sensible cases for Mrs. Tilford and the others for Tyler 
and Julian. There was no need for him to have done 
it. Mrs. Tilford bustled Tyler into the carriage. There 
was no need for that either, there was plenty of time. 

Julian and Penelope stood alone on the platform in 
a brief vacuum. 

“Mrs. Tilford is going to take care of Tyler in Eng- 


250 



land, while I'm away," he said. "She insists that what he 
needs is a feeling of security." 

"Yes, that is what he needs." 

There was a pause. The movement on the platform 
about them became a little more urgent, a little louder. 

"It was nice of you to come to see us oflE," he said. "I 
didn't think, when you knew the whole sordid story, 
that you'd want to come." 

She said with sudden rage, "Julian, haven't you ever 
in your life asked for anything for yourself? Do you 
always want to spend your life protecting somebody 
else?" 

He thought of that and he seemed to feel that he had 
the whole day to devote to it. "I suppose I do feel that 
way," he said and paused again. "Tyler seems to be in 
good hands, and I can think of only one other person 
who might need the sort of protection I could give her." 

She said flatly, "And so you are going back to her?" 

"No," he said. "I'm coming back to her after a while. 
And I'll see if she is still free, Penelope, when all that 
has happened has been forgiven ... or perhaps forgot¬ 
ten." He paused again and added slowly, "But you don't 
ask people to wait, and of course they don't ..." 

"They do wait, Julian." 

"How true, Penelope dear. People, yes, trains never." 
John Keeble was smiling at them as if they were as 
foolish as he had always expected them to be. 

The Blue Train, with its doors closed, was moving 
with goliath stealth out of Nice. His son and Mrs. Til- 
ford were waving to him as if they had played a joke 


251 



on him. Julian made a move as if to chase it and 
stumbled over his own suitcases. 

John Keeble stopped him. “I wouldn’t,” he said. 
“Mrs. Tilford felt Aat you would only be in the way. 
It seems that she has decided that Tyler must get used 
to the idea that normally there is a woman in the house. 
You couldn't have gone on that train anyway because 
Inspector Vernier still has your passport; Mrs. Tilford 
asked me to remind you to collect it.” 

A very young gendarme arrived, flushed from waiting 
till the train had gone, and handed Julian his passport. 
He was very apologetic, the inspector had not realized 
that Mr. Ashford was leaving. 

A porter came and picked up Julian's bags and John 
Keeble explained, “I told him to put them in my car. 
It's terribly conspicuous, I know, but at least it will take 
both of you out of my sight.” He grinned and made a 
little wave of dismissal. Then he walked away. 


252 






t-T::'' 1.^:"-'?* ’.y'-J’-Yr ;‘":;';::*-*X T' '•>.*>:. M'- ' , 

iiii;€:.:l^-:;rv;'.‘; h- ' -:.^^':y; ^:-*;V-v....-.:.:iii-;;;;iH Lr ;;, 

s----.^.-_. -..hi'-;::;..i,-V....,J-'.. ;.•-.*-■S...:r:...:-;;;;..-• _--d:r..-<:'; C:. 
ii;:; :■■' i .$:.■■ -.; k;:!i;v:v;: 

Si-k ;f .r:VrA-v.jrk'-i--> - , :...k;-: •> ■ - ■•.•:; r.--- •:. r--/:;;.;-^;:; A ,-. 
*;■ ‘-'■k:;;- kii'-AV;-.;*. A 7<Ai;'.:,;*i','..':-,''-'->:;:.,-r-' -Vi -i'^; •■k-:»A-- ■ ■;■; .• 

;r>: -a" r. -. k -/.x- '■- v.v> t',- 

ril.. %:.v,k-* . :. * •/,:.. . -I-* 

:r Ir.* ^ •.•..•••. - . ; v i* - :'V-' 

A:4' V. ■."*-• ■'• r. ': • 7'-'-"7r'"^' .'‘ri':- 

'■ ?':-. k- :-k'■ T:rrk;Hi' -■■ivkk;’:''*' ■ 

fe- ■■• kAkki .' , >; ■ ■ ? J;-'’ ’■ ■■ • ■ V; fi 

k ■ -.• ■ J'* : ^.. • 'AAity , •:."••'■ •“-•'• • ,* •‘•H-V'' ■»;? 

B s ■ .:;fii; jMiIsIa '' 


'i ■■• k::kki.',>;■ ■ ?j;-'’ ’■ ■■ • ■ V;:A;Ak:k;vA';.kk:jak;-.A 
k -k;- U- A-k-; 1; v:- .>-.k-.kkiQ:;£r.c.kk-:r-1'-k': • :•• 

I-j ■; . '.a 

^p ~l- -_ ■'".:tti ■> _ ^•. •■■ ^ '■ '"k I’- ■*■ 1 .* r' -tvv.W-k, 7